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Private water supplies – frequently asked questions

The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016/ Private Water Supplies (amendment) Regulations 2018 have come in to safeguard public health by ensuring private water supplies are safe.  Here’s some frequently asked questions to help you find out more about your obligations if you have a private water supply.

What is a private water supply?

If you supply water to others for example other domestic premises, renting out holiday accommodation or to commercial premises with employees or food production – this is a private water supply.  The supply may serve just one property or several properties through a network of pipes.

Your source of private supply may come from wells, boreholes, springs, rivers or streams, lakes or ponds or a private distribution system (mains water which is privately distributed by a second party).

All private water supplies must be registered with the council, who maintain a public register.  As a supplier of private water, it is your responsibility to ensure the water is wholesome and does not pose a risk to human health.  

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

You should register with us so that we can: 

  • carry out a risk assessment and monitoring under the private water regulations, if required
  • advise the appropriate agencies to ensure there is no risk to your supply’s catchment area (for example, advising persons undertaking bio-solid spreading on land that may affect private water supplies)
  • 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

Why do I need a risk assessment of my 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 

It will illustrate how to minimise the potential risks to your supply and to human health and provide adequate information to allow audit monitoring parameters to be identified. 

On completion of your risk assessment, we will explain how often the supply needs to be sampled based on the risks identified. You will receive the assessment report and a copy will be retained for 30 years at the council.  To see how regularly you will need to carry out a risk assessment, please see below.

The 2018 amended 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 (i.e. types of bacteria, chemicals etc.), which could pose a potential risk to human health. The parameters identified can then be monitored. 

Can I do the risk assessment and sampling myself? 

Risk assessments can only be performed by your local authority or by persons we deem to be competent.  We are responsible for ensuring sampling is completed according to legislation, therefore, if you would like another company to take and analyse samples of your private water supply, we will need to approve the sampling company and the parameters to be analysed, prior to samples being taken. The analysis must comply with the new legislation. We will need to be sent the result certificates directly from the laboratory. 

How long will the assessment take? 

The risk assessment will typically take two hours. Ideally the person responsible for the supply should be present so that the risk assessment can be conducted as quickly and efficiently as possible.  During the risk assessment, we will need access to the source of the supply i.e. borehole, well, or spring, any collection chambers, holding/storage tanks including header tanks that may be found in roof spaces, and finally the point of use of the supply.

How much will the risk assessment cost? 

Regulation 21 of the Private Water Supplies Regulations lays down the fees that we charge to re-cover the cost of conducting the risk assessment and monitoring programme.  Please see the private water supply charges page on our website.   

How regularly will my supply need to be sampled?

  • Single private dwelling – no requirement (sampled at request of owner/occupier)
  • Small domestic supply – every five years or more frequently if the risk assessment identifies a need
  • Private distribution system – dependent on the need as identified by risk assessment
  • Large or commercial supplies – to be determined by the volume of the water supplied

Apart from the risk assessments, how else can I keep my supply safe? 

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

What should I do if I think there is something wrong with my private water supply?

If you think something is wrong with the supply or you would like to request a sample to be taken and analysed, you can contact us to discuss your concerns and to arrange for any sampling to be carried out. 

What is a commercial/large supply?

The commercial/large category includes any business that supplies water from a private water supply to the public for drinking, washing, food preparation, or where the water is used in a way that it is likely to enter the human food chain.  This category includes B&B, holiday lets, pubs, food production premises.  Also, within this category are domestic private water supplies using more than 10 cubic metres of water per day or supplying water to 50 or more persons. 

More information

Further guidance on the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016/ Private Water Supplies (amendment) Regulations 2018 is available on the Drinking Water Inspectorate website at www.dwi.gov.uk.

Contacting Us

If you have an enquiry regarding private water supplies, please contact us on the details below.

Contact us - Environmental Protection

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01235 422403
(Text phone users add 18001 before dialing)

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South Oxfordshire District Council
Environmental Protection Team
135 Eastern Avenue
Milton Park
Milton
OX14 4SB