The private water supplies (England) (amended) regulations 2018

What is considered a private water supply

If the source of your water supply is not provided by a water company (for example United Utilities) then it is not considered to be a ‘mains’ supply. In this case you have a private water supply.

A private water supply can be obtained from a variety of sources including:

  • springs
  • wells
  • boreholes 
  • rivers
  • streams
  • lakes
  • ponds
  • rainwater or grey water harvesting

Your water supply may serve a single property, several properties or commercial premises. It is essential that private water supplies are maintained in order to minimise any risk to health.

The regulations

Unlike mains water supplies, many private supplies are not treated to remove contamination. You may not be able to tell whether your water is safe as contamination may not show as smell, taste or colour of the water. The Regulations set standards for water quality and places duties on local authorities to ensure the water quality is achieved. This objective is met by the local authority by providing sampling and monitoring of private water supplies.

The standards have been determined according to various factors:

  • acceptable values for lifetime exposure, where chemicals may affect health.
  • nuisance value of chemicals which affect taste, odour or appearance of a supply.
  • presence of certain bacteria or chemicals can indicate the presence of other, more hazardous substances.

The Regulations apply to all private supplies intended for human consumption. This includes domestic purposes (eg drinking, cooking, food preparation and washing) and commercial purposes (eg food production, holiday homes, bed and breakfast accommodation, caravan and camp sites).

Our role

We have a duty to check the quality of all water supplies within our area under section 77 of the Water Industry Act 1991.The Regulations are concerned with the wholesomeness of water obtained from private supplies and require us to sample and analyse the water from these supplies.

The Regulations aim to protect health and they require the same quality standards as the mains water supply. They require each supply to undergo a risk assessment so that sampling is tailored according to the risk it presents as a result of factors such as the source of supply, the area it is abstracted from and the number of consumers. The Regulations affect all private supplies although those serving a single dwelling will only be risk assessed and sampled upon request, unless these are newly installed supplies.

There is a fee for this service.

Classification and frequency of sampling

Commercial and larger domestic supplies - all supplies of any size that are supplied as part of a commercial or public activity and large domestic private supplies serving 50 or more people a day.

A full risk assessment to be completed every five years and sampled at least once a year. Commercial premises include :

  • rental properties where the landlord is responsible for the water supply and or any servicing or treatment of the water supply. 
  • registered childminder / crèche
  • food businesses
  • guest houses, bed and breakfasts, hotels
  • holiday lets
  • kennels / catteries where the public or employees use the water for domestic purposed such as drinking or handwashing.
  • village halls / visitor centres
  • caravan sites / camp sites
  • malting and brewing

Properties not classed as being commercial supplies

  • Rental properties where the tenant is responsible for the water supply, from source, through any treatment, to tap, and any servicing that may entail. If this property does not share its water with any other premises then it is classed as a single domestic dwelling. If this is shared with other domestic dwellings then this is a shared domestic supply (small supply).
  • Properties where there is no commercial element to the let, ie is social housing, or not for profit arrangement, or where the property is not the primary commercial arrangement (ie long term agricultural let), where the tenant has complete control over the supply and its maintenance.
  • Foster homes - these are classed as exempt from the Regulation as financial compensation is provided rather than payment (provision of a home not a service)
  • Offices - If the water supply is used by the office workers / employees for domestic purposes and the water usage is more than 10m3 per day, then this would be classed as a commercial supply, if it is less than 10m3 per day, then it is classed as a shared domestic supply. If the private water supply is used for human consumption by members of the public then it would fall under the scope of the Regulations as a commercial supply.
  • The Regulations state that where there is a private water supply used for Primary Production, where the water does not affect the quality of the final product, then these supplies are exempt from the requirements of the Regulations.  However, where the final product can be contaminated by the water, such as the washing of crops, or where the food premises is required to have a potable water supply under chapter VII of Regulation (EC) 852/2004, then these premises are required to comply with the Private Water Supplies Regulations.
  • If the water is used for toilet flushing and other Sanitary purposes only (not for human consumption). There is no requirement to have a full risk assessment, nor a requirement to have water tests conducted.  However records must be kept on the authorities database. So the authority must be made aware of any of these water supplies, and a basic risk assessment completed.
  • Milking parlours - private water supplies used solely for the washing down purposes do not fall under the scope of the Regulations. However if the milking parlour shares its water supply with a one of more domestic dwellings it is classed as a shared domestic supply.
  • Distilleries - where water from a private water supply is used in the manufacture of products that employ a distillation process, ie gin / whisky, the Regulations only apply where the water is added after the distillation process.

Small supplies

Two or more dwellings but less than 50 people using supply. A risk assessment must be completed once every five years and monitored at least once every 5 years.

Small single supplies

Where water is supplied to a single dwelling for domestic purposes only. These supplies will not automatically be included in the sampling regime. Sampling and risk assessment will only be undertaken if requested to do so by owner or occupier. If you want your supply assessing the  sampling charges apply and in the event of failure we have a duty to ensure the supply is made satisfactory.

Private distribution systems

Water supplied by United Utilities which is further distributed by third party pipes, for example, caravan and camp sites. A risk assessment must be carried out and a sampling programme devised based on the results.

New supplies

Where a local authority becomes aware of a private water supply that is to be, or has been used for the first time (or for the first time after being out of use for more than 12 months), the Regulations state that we must carry out water samples, add the premises details to our database and if a shared supply or commercial supply, must carry out a risk assessment as soon as reasonable practicable.

Rainwater harvesting / greywater

Rainwater and greywater harvesting, if used for drinking or any domestic purposes such as washing of foods, still falls under the requirements of the Regulations.  

Risk assessment

A risk assessment is a check on the condition of the supply. It involves looking at the source of the supply, the surrounding area and anticipating what might lead to contamination.

It will also involve looking at storage tanks pipe work and treatment systems. The risk assessment identifies any actual and potential hazards that may affect the health of those drinking the water, so that improvements can be made to ensure the quality of the water supply and safeguard the health of those using it. The risk assessment must be completed before the end of 2014.

Advance notice of sampling 

We will endeavour to make arrangements with the owner or occupier where possible prior to carrying out a risk assessment and taking samples.

Where will the sample be taken from?

One of our officers will take the sample from a tap used to supply water for drinking or cooking. In food premises it will be taken from the point immediately before the supply is used for food preparation.

What will we be sampling for?

Untreated water can contain microorganisms (from animal or human excrement) and, or chemical contamination caused by the ground through which it has run. These may not be detectable by taste or smell. We will be assessing the water for both chemical and microbiological parameters as stated in the 2016 Regulations.

Radioactive elements

The Regulations require the authority to sample, when necessary, for Radon, Gross Alpha, Gross Beta, Tritium and to calculate the Indicative Dose. This is only for supplies that may have a potential risk of contamination, ie from geology or from man made contamination.

This does not include surface water supplies such as streams, rainwater harvesting, or shallow springs. If you water supply is classed as being at a raised risk level, then a test will be conducted, unless evidence, such as water tests from other properties within the same aquifer, have been found to be satisfactory.  

Tests for radioactive elements cost the following:

  • Tritium £50
  • Radon - £100
  • Gross Alpha and Gross Beta - £50

How do I receive and interpret my results?

The results of the sampling will be forwarded to you with a letter, usually within 28 days of us receiving them from the laboratory. The letter will explain the results and inform you if any remedial action is required to safeguard your supply.

What sort of improvements might be needed?

Improvements may include the following:

  • Fencing around the source of the supply and, or collection tanks to protect them from grazing livestock and other animals that may cause contamination of the water supply.
  • Digging drainage ditches around the source or collection tanks to prevent ground water run-off entering the supply.
  • Repairing collection chambers and installing tight fitting lids to ensure a good seal to protect the supply from vermin or rubbish.
  • Clearing the site of over grown vegetation.
  • Repairing old leaking pipes and taps.
  • Replacing lead pipe.
  • Installing appropriate water treatment to ensure satisfactory chemical and microbiological quality.

Sometimes it may prove necessary to install a filter to remove or lower the level of a particular substance.

Examples include the following:

  • Ultra-Violet (UV) filters to remove bacteria (E. Coli).
  • Reverse Osmosis filters to remove aluminium or nitrate. 
  • Iron and Manganese filters. 
  • Cation Exchange filters to remove lead.

Contact us

0300 123 5015

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