Private Water Supplies in England and Wales

In general terms a private water supply is any water supply which is supplied to a property that is not provided by a water company. About 1% of the population of England and Wales use a private water supply. Most of these supplies are situated in remote, rural parts of the country and can originate from a range of sources including; boreholes, natural springs, and watercourses.

Private water supplies are categorised as follows:

 

England

Wales

Regulation 9 supplies

Large supplies and those used as part of a commercial or public activity  (including some supplies to tenanted single dwellings)

Large supplies and those used as part of a commercial or public activity (excluding all supplies to tenanted single dwellings)

Regulation 10 supplies

Small supplies, including small shared supplies.

Supplies to untenanted single dwellings only.

Regulation 11 supplies

Not applicable

Small shared supplies and those to tenanted single dwellings

Regulation 8 supplies

Where a public supply is onwardly distributed to non-water company consumers on a secondary premise.

Where a public supply is onwardly distributed to non- water company consumers on a secondary premise.


Regulations governing private water supplies

The European Union Drinking Water Directive (Council Directive 98/83/EC) concerns water intended for human consumption and sets out the standards and requirements for drinking water. This Directive is transposed into National Regulations and enforced in respect of private water supplies in England through the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016 which came into effect on 27 June 2016 and in Wales through the Private Water Supplies (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 which came into effect on 27 June 2016 and The Private Water Supplies (Wales) Regulations 2017 came into force on 20 November 2017.

Further to this The Private Water Supplies (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 came into force on 11 July 2018.

The Water Industry Act 1991, the primary national legislation, defines the powers and responsibilities of local authorities in relation to private water supplies and the definition of a relevant person(s).

Role of local authorities in regulating private water supplies

Local authorities act as the regulators for private water supplies and have a number of statutory duties under the Private Water Supplies Regulations. These Regulations place a duty on local authorities to conduct a risk assessment of each private water supply within their area and to undertake monitoring in order to determine compliance with drinking water standards.

The local authority has powers under the Regulations to require that a supply is improved by the relevant person(s). Local authorities are required to provide certain information, including monitoring data, relating to private water supplies to the Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers (in practice the DWI). This submission of data is due on 31 January of every year, for records relating to supplies in their area during the previous calendar year. Local Authorities must also within 12 months beginning with the day after the day on which it carried out a risk assessment, provide the Secretary of State with a summary of the results of that assessment.

Role of DWI in regulating private water supplies

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) is the competent authority for ensuring the Drinking Water Directive requirements are met in England & Wales. It provides independent reassurance that public water supplies in England & Wales are safe and drinking water quality is acceptable to consumers.

The DWI also has a statutory role to act as technical advisors to local authorities in relation to the implementation of the Private Water Supplies Regulations. This includes the provision of technical and scientific advice on all aspects of drinking water quality, including on private water supplies. The Inspectorate publishes an annual report on private water supplies in England and Wales.  This presents information based on the updated private supply records provided to the Inspectorate by local authorities in their annual data submissions. It is published each year around the end of June/ beginning of July and covers the previous calendar year.  It includes chapters on:

  • Private water supplies water quality testing and sample results
  • Risk management of private water supplies
  • Research on private water supplies and collaborative work by DWI
  • Private water supplies case studies

 

Page reviewed: 1 November 2018
Page modified: 1 November 2018

Drinking Water Inspectorate