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Private Water Supplies

What is a Private Water Supply?

A private water supply is a supply of water, which does not come from a water undertaker or licensed water supplier, such as Southern Water or Veolia. Private supplies may come from a variety of sources, including wells, springs, boreholes and streams.

The supplies are covered by The Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016. The regulations aim to ensure water from private supplies is wholesome, so people who drink water or consume food or drinks made from private supplies may do so without risk to their health. They also cover private distribution systems where water may be supplied to one property and then distributed on to other properties, such as caravan sites.

They are categorised as follows:

Large/commercial supplies

  • serves at least 50 people
  • uses more than 10m3 of water per day or
  • is used for commercial means or serves premises which the public have access to

Small supplies

  • serves at least two properties
  • serves less than 50 people or less than 10m3 per day
  • is not used for any commercial means or public premises

Single supplies

  • supply to a single premises where there is no commercial or public use

Risk assessments

The regulations require each supply (excluding single private domestic dwellings) to have a risk assessment every five years to establish how often the supply needs to be tested and for which types of bacteria, chemicals etc. This involves surveying the supply from the source through to point-of-use, to find factors that could lead to contamination of the supply.

Factors affecting sampling requirements include:

  • the type of source (borehole, well etc)
  • how well it is protected
  • the treatment methods in place
  • the number of people served by the supply
  • the intended use of the water

Risk assessments will normally be carried out by a pre-booked appointment and where possible details of what needs to be inspected/considered will be provided before the site visit. This is to make sure the owner or occupier has the opportunity to arrange access to all parts of the water system, arrange for someone with detailed knowledge of the system to attend and reduce the amount of time we need to be on site, so lowering the cost.

Sampling

Samples will normally be taken from a  tap and sent for analysis at an approved laboratory. The amount of sampling and level of analysis is dependent on the results of the risk assessment.

Large supplies and those serving commercial buildings are required to have regular 'check monitoring', as well as more broad 'audit monitoring' on a less regular basis. Small supplies are checked at least once every five years and more regularly depending on the risk assessment.

There is no requirement to sample at single domestic supplies. However, this can be done at the request of the owner or occupier. 

Charges

Regulation 21 and Schedule 5 of the Private Water Supplies Regulations sets out fees which we can charge to recover the cost of the risk assessment and monitoring programme. The table below outlines these charges and gives detail of the maximum charge permitted.

ActivityOur chargesMaximum chargeComments
Risk assessment Time taken to carry out the risk assessment (including travel and administration) at the officers hourly rate £500 This must be carried out at least every five years for each supply.
Sampling visit Time taken to carry out the sampling (including travel and administration) at the sampling officer's and administrative officer's hourly rates £100 Charge for a visit and to take a sample + administrative costs (including arranging with laboratory and invoicing)
Investigation

Time taken to carry out the investigation (including travel and administration) at the officers hourly rates

£100 Carried out in the event of test failure
Granting an authorisation Time taken to carry out the work involved in granting an authorisation at the officers and administrative officers hourly rates £100 Application by the owner of a supply for permission to breach a standard temporarily whilst remedial work is carried out
Sample analysis Actual charge levied by the laboratory up to the maximum.

Single and small supplies (using less than 10 m3 water per day and serving less than 50 persons): £25.

Large (using more than 10 m3 water per day or serving 50 or more persons) and commercial supplies: £100 for check monitoring and £500 for audit monitoring

Check monitoring is carried out to ensure that water complies with standards. Where possible it is carried out at the same time as any requirement for audit monitoring, to keep cost down.

Authorisations

Where sampling and testing shows there is a problem with the supply an authorisation may still be granted. This would permit the supply to be of a different standard to that set out in the regulations. However, this would only occur if the water poses no danger to human health. The authorisation will still require the applicant to take action to comply with any necessary conditions. 

If a private water supply constitutes a potential danger to human health, the local authority must serve a private supply notice.  The notice can be served on the owner or occupier of the premises the supply serves or the owner or occupier of the source premises.  The notice will usually require various steps to remedy the problems or to arrange an alternative supply.  If no action is taken, the local authority can carry out the works in default and recover the cost. 

Investigations

Any sample that fails to meet the points set out in the Private Water Supply Regulations must have an investigation to find the reason for the failure and to identify what action is needed to improve the supply. This may mean more  sampling at the source, holding tanks and/or other parts of the infrastructure to assist the investigation.

If a healthy supply cannot be achieved through making physical changes to the supply network, the water will need treatment before use. A wide range of treatment options are available.

Notices

In the event of failure, where a supply is found to be 'unwholesome' or a 'risk to human health', a notice will be served either prohibiting or restricting the supply, as appropriate. The notice will be specific for each supply that has a failed to meet the standards. This notice can be appealed in a Magistrates court and/or by appeal to the Secretary of State, but the notice will remain in force until it has been complied with or it is suspended by the courts/Secretary of State.

FAQs

Questions about Private Water Supplies

Can I do the risk assessment and sampling myself? 

Risk assessments can only be done by the local authority or by someone we consider competent. We are responsible for making sure sampling is completed according to legislation. If you would like another company to take and analyse samples of your supply, we will need to approve the company and the parameters to be analysed, before samples are taken. The analysis must comply with the legislation. We will need to be sent the result certificates directly from the laboratory.

Why do you need a risk assessment of your private water supply?

A risk assessment is needed to: 

  • protect public health
  • maintain public/customer confidence in drinking water
  • identify the legal duty and the responsibility of the water supplier

The risk assessment will show how to minimise the potential risks to your supply and to human health, and provide enough information to allow 'audit monitoring parameters' to be found. Once your risk assessment has been completed, we will explain how often the supply needs to be sampled, based on the risks found. Every five years the risk assessment will be reviewed. You will receive the assessment report and we will keep a copy for 30 years.

The Private Water Supplies Regulations impose a tighter legal duty for monitoring of your supply, and one of the functions of the risk assessment is to identify any parameter (types of bacteria, chemicals etc) which could pose a potential risk to human health. The parameters identified can then be monitored.

How long will the assessment take?

This will depend on the type and size of supply and the factors that may affect water quality. Ideally the person responsible for the supply should be present so the assessment can be carried out as quickly as possible in order to keep costs to a minimum. We will need access to the source of the supply (borehole, well, or spring, any collection chambers, holding/storage tanks including header tanks) which may be found in roof spaces, and finally the point of use of the supply.

How regularly will my supply need to be sampled?

  • Single private dwelling - No requirement - sampled at the request of the owner/occupier
  • Small domestic supplies - Once every five years or more frequently if the risk assessment identifies a need
  • Private distribution system - Dependant on need, identified by risk assessment
  • Large or commercial supplies - To be determined by the volume of water supplied

Why should I register my private water supply with the local authority?

So that we can: 

  • carry out risk assessment and monitoring if needed under the Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016
  • advise the appropriate agencies to ensure there is no risk to your supply's catchment area (for example, advising persons undertaking bio-solid spreading where there are private water supplies which may be affected)
  • inform you of potential contamination threats to aquifers that may serve your supply
  • notify you of any updates of legislation involving private water supplies and your responsibilities

How can I keep my supply safe?

All parts of your supply should be regularly monitored and inspected to make sure that it is in good working order, and has not been interfered with or damaged. The supply needs to be properly protected throughout, from source to point-of-use. This should include a maintenance programme to clean the system, storage tanks or header tanks, and to ensure all treatment works are working as they should according to manufacturers guidelines.

What if I supply water to others? 

If you supply water to others with or without a charge, for example other domestic premises, renting out holiday accommodation or to commercial premises with employees or food production it is your responsibility to ensure the water is healthy and does not pose a risk to human health.

Should I get my supply checked by Dover District Council? 

We do have records of private supplies in the District and shall contact the owners of these. However we there may be supplies we are unaware of. If your supply meets the description above and we have not contacted you please ring us to discuss.  

If you suspect that something is wrong with the supply or you would like to request a sample to be taken and analysed you can contact the Environmental Protection Team to discuss your problem and to arrange for any sampling to be carried out. 

Where can I get further advice?

Detailed technical information and guidance is available on the Private Water Supplies website.

Information on sampling parameters, fees, frequency of inspections etc is also available on the Drinking Water Inspectorate’s website.

The Environmental Protection Team at Dover District Council, on 01304 872428 or via email at envhealth@dover.gov.uk  can also provide advice.

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