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Almost all private water supplies are found in the more remote, rural parts of the country, and the source of the supply is usually a well, spring or a borehole, but they could also be a stream or a lake. The supply may serve a single property or several through a network of pipes and tanks.
Safe drinking water is essential and important to good health. The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016 came into force on 27 June 2016, and have their origins in the EU Drinking Water Directive. This requires local government to make sure that all private water supplies in there areas are of sufficiently high quality to protect public health.
The legislation also applies to Private Distribution Networks where the land owner typically has responsibility for the distribution of mains water after it’s crossed the site boundary.
Local government have a responsibility for holding information on all private water supplies, and the regulations include rules dictating how often samples must be taken and what the water must be tested for.
Local authorities will test a private water supply for an individual household where requested, but there’ll be a charge for this service. These charges are in line with those recommended by DEFRA.
How they monitor the water supply
The new regulations aim to protect health, and require the same quality standards as the mains water supply. A risk assessment identifies how often they monitor, based on factors such as the source of supply, the area it’s abstracted from and the number of consumers.
The regulations affect all the private supplies, although those serving an owner-occupied, single domestic dwelling will only be risk assessed and sampled on request. The regulations required that all relevant supplies were risk assessed within five years of the commencement of the regulations, and at least every five years subsequently. This initial period of assessment has expired, but they continue to proactively search for supplies covered by the regulations, in order to protect public health.
Contact Springbore Ltd if you’d like us to assess your supply. (www.privatewatersupply.co.uk)
Types of contamination
- Bacterial – the presence of bacteria, such as e.coli, in a water supply is often an indication of the presence of faecal matter or sewage from animals or humans, either directly or from the run-off of surface or ground water. Bacteria can also indicate that plants, animals or insects are inhabiting and potentially dying and decomposing in a section of a water supply.
- Chemical – this can be from the applications of substances used in farming or forestry, such as fertilisers or pesticides, industrial accidents and mismanagement, incorrect storage of chemicals such as fuel oils, or from naturally occurring minerals.
- Both bacterial and chemical contamination of the supply can happen for various reasons including:
- during and after local flooding
- lack of protection from grazing animals and
- lack of maintenance of the private water system
- Radioactivity – both natural and anthropogenic sources of radiation can affect private water supplies. The most common occurrences of this are naturally occurring radon or ‘artificial’ isotopes used in industrial processes, which can enter the water table through mismanagement. The radioactive material can enter your property either dissolved in the water or in the form of a gas, which can travel along pipework and other infrastructure, meaning that it may be necessary to monitor the air in your property, as well as the water.
You can find further information about Radon in Private Water Supplies here.
It’s therefore recommended that all private water supplies are sampled on a regular basis and this can be either through our sampling regime or by the owner arranging for samples to be taken by a private contractor, where a formal sampling protocol has been agreed with Regulatory Services
What happens if the supply doesn’t meet the standards?
If your supply fails to meet the standards set in the regulations, either due to the quality of the water found when sampling, or the findings of the risk assessment process, it will be necessary to serve a legal notice on the owners or users of a supply which compels them to rectify the issues. This will always be done in discussion with interested parties to ensure that a balance between protecting public health and being reasonable to those who manage the supply is found.
In the first instance, we may ask for various improvements to the source and distribution network, which can be made including:
- fencing off a spring chamber to stop animals entering and contaminating the area
- the improvement of drainage around to supply or
- the replacement of pipework.
Often, it may prove necessary to install a filter to remove or lower the level of a particular substance.
- ultra-violet filters to remove bacteria (E. Coli)
- reverse osmosis filters to remove aluminium or nitrate
- iron and manganese filters
If your home or business is served by a private water supply, and you’d like more information, or would like to arrange a test, or simply want to check whether you’re already on our register, please contact us.