Quality standards for private water supplies

Private water supplies (PWS) are not from a mains water supplier such as Severn Trent or Southwest Water.  Most private supplies are situated in remote, rural parts of the country and they may serve single or multiple properties. Sources of such supplies may be a well, borehole, spring, stream, river, lake or pond.

Unless properly maintained and protected, private supplies can become contaminated. Contamination is usually harmless, but in the absence of appropriate treatment it can lead to illness or even death in vulnerable people.

There are legal quality standards in place to ensure PWS provide wholesome water fit for use in drinking, washing, cooking, and in commercial food and drink production processes. In addition, it is recommended that your supply and catchment area are regularly checked for contamination.

Depending on the source of your supply there are a number of checks that we would recommend you carry out:

Springs, wells or boreholes

Check that adequate protection is provided to stop surface water getting into your supply.

Streams, rivers, lakes or ponds

The collection arrangement should include a settlement chamber to allow particles to settle out before the water flows into the supply.

It is also advisable to include a sand or gravel filter after the settlement chamber to remove organic material and small animals. These filters may not remove all micro-organisms and will not remove chemical contamination. The collection chamber should be constructed to prevent the entry of any discharges from septic tanks or agricultural runoff.

Supplies from farmland where animals graze or manure

Check that the farmer is aware of the drinking water supply and the need to avoid contaminating it by farming activity. Divert rain water run-off so it does not flow into your supply, this can be achieved by a small ditch allowing water to run away from the supply. Fencing should be used to stop animals from gaining access to collection point of the supply.

Supply stored in a collection chamber or storage tank

These should have watertight and vermin proof walls and lids. Tops of chambers or tanks should be above ground level to prevent water from surrounding land flowing into them. Any overflow pipes or vents in chambers and tanks should be designed to stop animals and debris from entering them. The collection chamber should not be close to any soakaway or drain.

If you supply water to others

If you supply water to other people in the course of business, you have a duty of care towards customers for the safety of water you supply.

If you think the water is unsafe, you may have to:

  • advise the boiling of all water for drinking or food production
  • use or suggest the use of bottled water

Do you need to have your supply checked?

You should contact the council if:

  • you would like to have an additional test done
  • you are the sole user of the supply, and would like your water tested

The service is chargeable based upon officer time involved and the type of testing undertaken.