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Private water supplies

The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016 sets standards for water quality and places duties on local authorities to ensure the water quality is achieved.

A private water supply is a source of water that is not from a water company such as Northumbrian Water. The supply may come from a variety of sources such as; a well, borehole, spring, stream, river, lake or a pond. The supply may serve a single property or several but in either case it is essential the supply be well maintained to minimise any risk to human health.

What you need to know

The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016 set standards for water quality and places duties on us to ensure the water quality is achieved.

The standards have been determined according to various factors. For instance, where chemicals might affect health, standards have been set based on acceptable values for lifetime exposure. Some standards also allow for the nuisance value of chemicals which affect taste, odour or appearance of a supply. Finally, some standards have been set because the presence of certain bacteria or chemicals can indicate the presence of other, more hazardous substances.

The regulations require us to carry out a risk assessment for each supply and to monitor the quality of the water to be used for human consumption. This risk assessment will consider factors such as:

  • the source of the water
  • land use adjoining the supply
  • number of consumers on the supply
  • any treatment provided to the water

The regulations affect all private supplies although those serving a single dwelling will only be risk assessed and sampled upon request. The regulations require us to risk assess all supplies with 2 or more properties and where appropriate water quality will be monitored by sampling of the water. Examples of where monitoring will take place are:

  • commercial premises e.g. hotel, public house
  • public activity
  • village or estate supplies which service 50 or more persons per day

What should you do to keep your water supply safe?

The first thing is to get some details on your private water supply such as:

  • Who is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance?
  • Where is the source?
  • How does it get to your property?
  • Is there any treatment?
  • If it is treated is the equipment in good order and serviced regularly?

Should you get your supply checked?

We legally have to monitor the quality of all private water supplies in its area, although the number of people served by the supply dictates how often it is tested.

If you think your supply is not up to the standard that it should be then you can have it tested yourself at a private laboratory or request that we test it for you. It should be noted that both of these options would incur a charge that will vary depending on the number of tests carried out. However if you have a complaint about a private water supply, this would not normally incur a charge from us. Testing is imperative to ensure that the water is wholesome and of good quality.

Contamination from flooding

If you rely on a private water supply and suffer a flooding event, you should assume the supply has been contaminated and is not fit to use without boiling. Alternatively you could use a bottled water supply, but please refer to the advice of the NHS and Public Health England on giving bottled water to infants. Even if you have a treatment system, it may be that the contamination is heavy (this may not be visible) and the treatment method may have been unable to cope with this. Therefore still treat the water as contaminated and boil accordingly.

What happens if the supply does not meet the standards?

In the first instance advice will be given on various improvements which can be made. These may include:

  • fencing off a spring chamber to stop animals entering and contaminating the area
  • creating an exclusion zone for the spreading of fertilizers around the spring or well
  • the improvement of drainage around the supply
  • the replacement of pipework.

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

  • Ultraviolet filters to remove bacteria (E. Coli).
  • Reverse Osmosis filters to remove aluminium or nitrate.
  • Iron and manganese filters.
  • Cation Exchange filters to remove lead.

Types of analysis carried out by us

We will carry out three levels of testing depending on the circumstances at each supply.

Level one (£25.00): This is a bacterial test only, and covers specific bacteria such as E. coli that can be found in water supplies that are harmful to humans.

Level two: (£100.00): This is the most common type of analysis this authority will perform. It includes:

  • the bacterial tests from above
  • metals commonly found within the County Durham area
  • water quality such as pH, conductivity, nitrates

Level three (£500.00): This is a very comprehensive test covering a much greater range of parameters than above. The full list of parameters is available on request or can be found in the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016. This test is required for all sources that supply more than 10 cubic metres of water a day.

Contact us
Environment, Health and Consumer Protection
03000 261 016
Our address is:
  • Durham County Council
  • Environment, Health and Consumer Protect
  • PO Box 617
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 9HZ
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