Private water supplies
A Private Water Supply (PWS) is any water supply which is not provided by a water company (water undertaker) and which is not considered to be a 'mains' supply.
Private water supplies can be obtained from a variety of sources including:
- rivers and streams
- lakes or ponds
- a private distribution system (mains water which is privately distributed by a second party)
The supply may serve just one property or several properties through a network of pipes.
All private water supplies must be registered with the council, who maintain the records.
The Private Water Supply Public Register is available to view here.
All private water supplies can pose a potential threat to health unless they are properly protected and treated. Unlike main 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 within the water may not be shown as a smell, taste or the colour of the water itself.
Private Water Supply (England) Regulations
The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009 came into force on 1st January 2010 and seek to further safeguard public health by ensuring that private water supplies are ‘wholesome’ and ‘safe to drink’. These new regulations aimed to protect health and they require quality standards similar to those of mains water supply. They require each supply to undergo a ‘Risk Assessment’. The 2009 Regulations have since been replaced by the Private Water Supply (England) Regulations 2016.
Risk assessment is a proactive approach identifying potential hazards to human health. The information analysed in the assessment will be recorded in a report specific to your private water supply. It allows action to be taken to manage risks through a multi-barrier approach, involving source protection, treatment of the source water and management of the distribution network to prevent contaminants entering the supply system. The regulations cover all private supplies, although those serving a single dwelling will only be risk assessed and sampled upon request of the owner or occupier.
The council will charge for this work, please see the charges table in the downloads section below.
The regulations require each supply (excluding single private domestic dwellings) to undergo a risk assessment every five years, to determine how regularly the supply needs to be tested and for which parameters (i.e. which types of bacteria, chemicals etc). This involves surveying the supply, from the source through to point-of-use, to identify factors that could lead to contamination of the supply. Factors influencing sampling requirements include the type of source (borehole, well, private distribution system etc), how well it is protected, the treatment methods in place, the number of people served by the supply and the intended use of the water.
Risk assessments will normally be carried out by prior appointment, and where possible details of what needs to be inspected / considered will be provided prior to the site visit. This is to ensure that the owner or occupier has the opportunity to arrange access to the various parts of the water system, arrange for someone with detailed knowledge of the system to attend, and generally reduce the amount of time we are required to be on site, thereby also reducing the cost.
Samples from private water supplies will normally be taken from a consumer tap and then sent for analysis at an approved laboratory. The sampling frequency and the extent of analysis needed will depend on the results of the risk assessment.
Larger supplies (using more than 10 m³ water per day and serving 50 or more persons) and those serving commercial premises are now required to undergo regular 'check monitoring', as well as more extensive 'audit monitoring' on a less frequent basis.
Small supplies (using less than 10 m³ water per day and serving less than 50 persons) are monitored at least once every five years and more frequently if shown to be necessary by the risk assessment.
Supplies serving only an individual domestic dwelling will only be risk assessed and tested at the request of the owner or occupier. However, single supplies must still register with the council so the private water supply can be placed on the public register.
Any sample that fails to meet the prescribed concentrations laid out in the Private Water Supply Regulations must have an investigation to determine the reason for the failure and to identify what action is needed to improve the supply. This may mean further sampling being conducted at the source, holding tanks and / or other parts of the infrastructure to assist the investigation.
If a wholesome supply cannot be achieved through implementing physical changes to the supply network, the water will require treatment before use. A wide range of treatment options are available.
In the event of failure, where a supply is found to be 'unwholesome' or a 'risk to human health' a notice will be served either prohibiting or restricting the supply, as appropriate. The notice will be specific for each supply that has a failure of standards. The notice can be appealed in a Magistrate's Court and / or by appeal to the Secretary of State, but the notice will remain in force until either it has been complied with or it is suspended by the Courts / Secretary of State.
In certain circumstances where a supply fails the water quality standard, but the failure is of a parameter which does not cause a risk to health, the council may grant an 'Authorisation' to exceed the statutory limit. This authorisation would be for a temporary period, while measures are put in place to correct the problem.
The Council will charge the costs of carrying out their duties under these regulations to those responsible for the supply. Where part of a shared supply is used by some commercial activity, e.g. bed and breakfast, pub, camp site, the charges may be divided between the commercial and non-commercial properties proportionally. A breakdown of the Council's charges in respect of private water supplies is available online.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
What is a commercial / large supply?
The commercial / large category includes any business that supplies water from a private water supply to the public for drinking, washing, food preparation, or where the water is used in a way that it is likely to enter the human food chain. This category includes B&B, holiday lets, pubs, food production premises. Also within this category are domestic private water supplies using more than 10 m³ water per day or supplying water to 50 or more persons e.g. large caravan sites.
Can I do the risk assessment and sampling myself?
Risk assessments can only be performed by the local authority or by persons the local authority has deemed competent. The local authority is responsible for ensuring sampling is completed according to legislation, therefore if you would like another company to take and analyse samples of your private water supply, the local authority will need to approve the sampling company and the parameters to be analysed, prior to samples being taken. The analysis must comply with all the current legislation. The local authority will need to be sent the result certificates directly from the laboratory if a third party has been given prior approval by the local authority.
Why do you need a risk assessment of your private water supply?
A risk assessment is needed to:
- protect public health
- maintain public / customer confidence in the drinking water supply
- identify the legal duty and the responsibility of the water supplier.
The risk assessment will illustrate how to minimise the potential risks to your supply and to human health and provide adequate information to allow audit monitoring parameters to be identified.
On completion of your risk assessment we will explain how often the supply needs to be sampled, based on the risks identified. Every five years the risk assessment will be reviewed. You will receive the assessment report and a copy will be retained for 30 years at the Council.
The Private Water Supplies Regulations impose a tighter legal duty for monitoring of your supply, and one of the functions of the risk assessment is to identify any parameter (i.e. types of bacteria, chemicals etc) which could pose a potential risk to human health. The parameters identified can then be monitored.
How long will the assessment take?
The risk assessment will typically take approximately two hours. Ideally the person responsible for the supply should be present so that the risk assessment can be conducted as quickly and efficiently as possible. During the risk assessment we will need access to the source of the supply i.e. borehole, well, or spring, any collection chambers, holding / storage tanks including header tanks which may be found in roof spaces, and finally the point of use of the supply.
How much will the risk assessment cost?
Regulation 21 of the Private Water Supplies Regulations lays down the fees which the local authority can charge to re-cover the cost of conducting the risk assessment and monitoring programme. The Council has set the charges for this financial year. Please see a breakdown of charges in the downloads section of this webpage.
How regularly will my supply need to be sampled?
Single private dwelling
No requirement - sampled at the request of the owner / occupier
Small domestic supplies
Once every 5 years or more frequently if the risk assessment identified a need
Private distribution system
Dependant on need, identified by risk assessment
Large or commercial supplies
To be determined by the volume of water supplied
Why must I register my private water supply with the local authority?
So that we can:
- Carry out risk assessment and monitoring if required under the Private Water Supply Regulations 2016
- Advise the appropriate agencies to ensure there is no risk to your supply's catchments area (for example, advising persons undertaking bio-solid spreading on land that there are private water supplies which may be affected)
- Inform you of potential contamination threats to aquifers that may serve your supply
- Notify you of any updates of legislation involving private water supplies and your responsibilities
How can I keep my supply safe?
All parts of your supply should be routinely monitored and inspected to ensure that it is in good working order and has not been interfered with or damaged. The supply needs to be appropriately protected throughout, from source to point-of-use. This should include a maintenance programme to clean the distribution system and storage tanks or header tanks, and to ensure all treatment works are working as they should according to manufacturer's guidelines.
What if I supply water to others?
If you supply water to others with or without a charge, for example other domestic premises, renting out holiday accommodation or to commercial premises with employees or food production it is your responsibility to ensure the water is wholesome and does not pose a risk to human health.
Should I get my supply checked by the district council?
Unless your supply serves a single domestic dwelling, your supply will be risk assessed and monitored by the council in the next five years. However, if you suspect that something is wrong with the supply or you would like to request a sample to be taken and analysed you can contact the Environmental Health team to discuss your concerns and to arrange for any sampling to be carried out.
Further guidance on the Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016 is available on the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) website at www.dwi.gov.uk
If you have an enquiry regarding private water supplies, please contact us at https://eh.arun.gov.uk/