Private companies have been put in charge of collecting and analyzing water samples for quality in a bid to prevent interference from local authorities, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Monday.
According to a plan from the ministry's China National Environmental Monitoring Center, starting this month third-party agencies will collect samples from rivers, lakes and reservoirs before delivering them to independent labs for random analysis.
The data on water quality will be directly uploaded to the center, which will then release the results to the public, the ministry said.
Previously, provincial and city environmental protection bureaus were responsible for the whole process.
"The independent processes will guarantee that the monitoring data on surface water quality is accurate and authentic," the ministry added.
The first independent national collection began on Oct 9 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of this month.
The national-level monitoring system separates China's waterways, lakes and reservoirs into 1,853 sections. According to the ministry, as of 5 pm on Monday, samples from 1,631 sections had been collected.
"The water quality monitoring is closely related with local government performance. Without accurate data, it's hard to give an accurate assessment," Zhang Bo, head of water quality management at the ministry, said in March at a media briefing on water pollution.
He called for independent monitoring with unified standards to supervise the governments and prompt them to perform better in water pollution control.
China has been fighting water pollution since 2015 due to severe pollution in some areas.
For example, among the 161 monitored sections of the Haihe River, mainly running through northern China, 41 percent were found with severely polluted water that could not be used for any purpose, an increase of 3.1 percent from 2015, data from the ministry showed.
Since January, the 1,436 major air quality monitoring stations nationwide have been separated from local environmental bureaus and managed by China National Environmental Monitoring Center.
In addition, the ministry set up its first national engineering laboratory on Friday to promote scientific research into lake water pollution controls, vice-minister Huang Runqiu said.