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Water quality improved last year, the Government's Drinking Water Inspectorate reported yesterday. Only one in 200 of the 3.2 million tests carried out by the 31 water companies in 1995 failed to comply with national and EU standards. Overall, higher than acceptable levels of iron, lead and pesticides were the most common reason for infringements.

Yorkshire Water, under fire for its performance in last year's drought, has the greatest number of enforcement actions pending against it. Seven incidents involving contravention of quality standards and failure to meet sampling requirements are cited by the Inspectorate, which brings enforcement actions only when a water supplier "is contravening [standards] and is likely to contravene again".