New Private Water Supply Regulations
– what do they mean for owners and consumers?
What is a private water supply and do these Regulations apply to me?
A private water supply is a supply of water which does not come from a public water supply (from a water company unless it is
subsequently supplied by someone else
). Private supplies may come from a variety of sources, including wells, springs, boreholes
Regulations on private water supplies in England and Wales were introduced in 1991 and were replaced by new Regulations
introduced early in 2010. The new Regulations apply to all who own or use a private water supply. The new Regulations have been
introduced to ensure that water from private supplies is wholesome, so that people who drink water or consume food or drinks
made from private supplies may do so without risk to their health.
This factsheet aims to help those with a private water supply understand how the regulations affect them.
Local authorities are responsible for regulating private water supplies used for domestic purposes (such as drinking, cooking, and
washing) in both domestic and commercial premises.
What does this mean for me?
Where a private water supply is used:
• for more than one house
• for commercial purposes in premises including, food businesses, Bed and Breakfast, dairy farms, holiday rentals,
a workplace (where you employ other people)
• in a public building
a professional from your local authority will visit to inspect the supply and take water samples, generally from your kitchen tap.
They can make a charge for this.
If the house you and your family live in is the only property supplied by a water source, and only your family drink the water, the
local authority will only take a sample if you ask them to. They can charge for this service. If you are a tenant on a private water
supply, you can also ask your local authority to investigate your supply if you think there could be a problem.
What sort of things can affect the water quality?
Even if water looks clear, untreated water can contain microorganisms (from animal droppings or human sewage) or chemical
contamination which may not be detectable by taste or smell.
What harm could the contamination cause?
Some microorganisms, such as coliforms, just indicate that contamination may be present. Others, such as Cryptosporidium,
Giardia, Camplyobacter and E.coli O157 can cause vomiting and diarrhoea or more severe illness in some cases.
The effects of chemicals depends on the type and amount of chemical present. One common concern relates to lead, which is
dissolved from lead pipework, and can impair the childhood development. Children with higher levels of lead in their bodies tend to
have difficulties with learning and behaviour. There is further advice overleaf on how to identify lead pipes and reduce this risk.
Why should we worry about our water?....Your comments
I have drunk it for years and it hasn’t hurt me...
Some people are not affected as much as others. Studies show that children under 10 years old, whose homes have a private water
supply, are nearly four times more likely to suffer from diarrhoea than other children.
I just heard that my water may have lead in it because I have lead pipes. I asked the doctor - she said that a small amount of lead
from the pipe can get into the water and over time, this can affect the development of my baby’s brain.
Some types of water, particularly soft water (from either public or private water supplies) can dissolve lead from your household
pipes. It’s important to minimise the exposure of babies and young children to lead and you should take action to avoid high levels
of lead while you’re pregnant and before your child is 6 years old. A simple way to reduce the risk is the run off any water that has
been standing in pipework for a long time, for example by running the tap before drawing water to drink.
See separate leaflet on Private Distribution Systems