In general terms, a private water supply is any water supply which is not provided by a water company. It is not a "mains" supply. About 1% of the population of England and Wales have private water supplies to their homes. Most private supplies are situated in the more remote, rural parts of the country. The source of the supply may be a well, borehole, spring, stream, river, lake or pond. The supply may serve just one property or several properties through a network of pipes.
Problems associated with private supplies
All private water supplies can pose a threat to health unless they are properly protected and treated. They may become contaminated with bacteria, protozoa, parasites and viruses (micro-organisms) or other substances. Many of these are harmless, but, in the absence of appropriate treatment, some may cause serious illness or even death in vulnerable people. You may not be able to tell whether your water is safe as any contamination may not show by colour, taste or smell.
Who could be affected
You, your family and visitors to your home or business all have a right to expect clean, safe drinking water. Many private water supplies meet the regulatory requirements in England, however, there a number of groups who may be at risk from microbiological contamination in a private water supply, including children, elderly people and people with a weakened immune system.
Protecting your supply
Make sure your supply is regularly checked, including the catchment area, and is not damaged to allow contamination. Defects should be corrected as soon as practical.
Supplies from springs, wells or boreholes
Check that adequate protection is provided to stop surface water getting into your supply.
Supplies from 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 a 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?
Forest of Dean District Council monitors private water supplies; the frequency of the testing of supplies is dependent on the number of people using the supply. 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 Council is likely to charge you for this service. Remember that the water test can only tell you about the quality of the water at the time of the test.
Should your water fail the test
If your supply is, or may become, contaminated you should install treatment to the supply to ensure clean wholesome water. If your supply is contaminated with micro-organisms you should boil all water to be used for drinking and culinary purposes. Many forms of treatment are available; for information contact the Environmental Health department on 01594 810000 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Private water supplies in the Forest of Dean
As from 1 January 2010, the Private Water Supplies Regulations 1991 have been revoked and replaced by the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009. The major change is the requirement for a risk assessment to be undertaken for all commercial businesses supplied from a private water supply. To comply with the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009, the Local Authority is required to carry out a risk assessment of each supply that supplies water to any premises (other than a supply to a single dwelling not used for any commercial activity) once every 5 years. This includes taking a sample from the tap normally used to supply water for human consumption. The risk assessment is to establish whether there is significant risk of supplying water that would constitute a potential danger to human health. Future sampling and parameters would then be based on the outcome of the risk assessment (low risk - less frequent sampling, high risk - more frequent sampling). The Local Authority is required to recover the costs of undertaking the risk assessment, sampling and analysis from the relevant person. This may result in an increased charge to your business. If you already have a written risk assessment covering the extraction of the supply to the final point, a copy can be sent to the Environmental Health team at the Council offices for our records. This may result in a reduction of the fees the Council may have to recover in the future.
Purchasing a property within the Forest of Dean
If you are thinking of purchasing a property in the Forest of Dean, please be aware that properties within the following areas maybe on a private water supply: Areas potentially on a private water supply. Please contact the team for further information.
It is useful to note that the continued use of a bacteriological contaminated supply by residents of a property can lead to a build-up of a natural resistance to infection and thus it would be unlikely for an incident of illness to be noticed as caused by a water supply. There is, however, a higher risk to any visitor or any member of the public who's immunology is suppressed.
Mains water in the Forest of Dean is supplied by Severn Trent Water and Welsh Water (Dwr Cymru) depending on your address. The public water companies are monitored by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) which is part of DEFRA. For information, visit the relevant websites by going to the external link box below.
For more information about water supplies download the relevant document from the resource box below.
National site: an overview of the UK water industry and links to supporting information
National site: new consumer guide to get the most from water at home
National Site: Severn Trent Water
National Site: Welsh Water
Government Site: Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) regulates public water supplies in England and Wales
Government site: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs