2. Private water supplies

What is a private water supply?

A private water supply is any water supply which is not provided by a water company and which is not be considered to be a "mains" supply.

Private water supplies can be obtained from a variety of sources including:

  • Springs
  • Wells
  • Boreholes
  • Rivers and streams
  • Lakes or ponds

All private water supplies can pose a potential threat to health unless they are properly protected and treated.  Unlike mains water supplies, many private supplies are not treated to remove contamination. You may not be able to tell whether your water is safe as contamination may not show as smell, taste or colour of the water.

Monitoring your water supply

The Private Water Supplies Supplies (England) Regulations 2016 require that local authorities sample and monitor water from private supplies intended for human consumption

The Council will try to contact the owner or occupier before doing a risk assessment and taking samples.

Commercial and larger domestic supplies

All supplies of any size that are supplied as part of a commercial or public activity and large domestic private supplies serving 50 or more people a day:

  • A full risk assessment to be completed every 5 years and sampled at least twice a year

Small supplies

Two or more dwellings but less than 50 people using supply:

  • A risk assessment must be completed once every 5 years and monitored at least once a year

Small single supplies

Where water is supplied to a single dwelling for domestic purposes only.

  • These supplies will not automatically be included in the sampling regime

Sampling and risk assessment will only be undertaken if requested to do so by owner or occupier.

See charges listed below; if the water fails the test the Council has a duty to ensure the supply is made satisfactory.

Private distribution systems

Water supplied by United Utilities which is further distributed by third party pipes, for example, caravan and camp sites.

  • A risk assessment must be carried out and a sampling programme devised based on the results.

Risk assessments

A risk assessment is a check on the condition of the supply.

It involves looking at the source of the supply, the surrounding area and anticipating what might lead to contamination.

It will also involve looking at storage tanks pipework and treatment systems.

The risk assessment identifies any actual and potential hazards that may affect the health of those drinking the water, so that improvements can be made to ensure the quality of the water supply and safeguard the health of those using it.

Where will the sample be taken from?

A Council officer will take the sample from a tap used to supply water for drinking or cooking. In food premises it will be taken from the point immediately before the supply is used for food preparation.

What is being tested?

Untreated water can contain microorganisms (from animal or human excrement) and, or chemical contamination caused by the ground through which it has run.

These may not be detectable by taste or smell.

The Council will assess the water for chemical and microbiological parameters as stated in the 2009 Regulations.


The results of the sampling will be forwarded to you within 28 days of the Council receiving them from the laboratory.

The letter will explain the results and let you know if any action is needed.

What sort of improvements might be needed?

Improvements may include the following:

  • Fencing around the source of the supply and, or collection tanks to protect them from grazing livestock and other animals that may cause contamination of the water supply
  • Digging drainage ditches around the source or collection tanks to prevent ground water run-off entering the supply
  • Repairing collection chambers and installing tight fitting lids to ensure a good seal to protect the supply from vermin or rubbish
  • Clearing the site of over grown vegetation
  • Repairing old leaking pipes and taps
  • Replacing lead pipe
  • Installing appropriate water treatment to ensure satisfactory chemical and microbiological quality

You may need to install a filter to remove or lower the level of a particular substance, for example:

  • Ultra-Violet (UV) filters to remove bacteria (E. Coli)
  • Reverse Osmosis filters to remove aluminium or nitrate
  • Iron and Manganese filters
  • Cation Exchange filters to remove lead


Who pays?

  • If you request a risk assessment and/or sampling, you are liable for the cost.
  • The owner or occupiers of the premises using the supply are liable to be charged.
  • The land owner where the source of the supply is located is also liable to be charged.
  • Where more than one person is liable the costs will be apportioned equally.

The Council will only charge enough to cover costs.

Risk assessment and sampling charges
Activity Charge Comments
Risk assessment £49 per hour, to a maximum of £500 Risk assessment and report usually takes 5 hours. Minimum charge of £48.
Sampling £48 per hour, to a maximum of £100  
Investigation £100 Carried out if the sample fails.
Authorisation £100 Application by the owner of a supply for permission to breach a standard temporarily whilst remedial work is carried out.
Analysis charges
Activity Charge Comments
Domestic supplies Lab costs to a maximum of £25 Where a supply provides <10m3/day or <50 people and is used for domestic purposes.
Commercial supplies (check monitoring) Lab costs to a maximum of £100 Check monitoring is carried out to ensure that water complies with the standards. Where possible this will be carried out at the same time as any requirement for Audit monitoring to keep costs down.
Commercial supplies (audit monitoring) Lab costs to a maximum of £500 Additional parameters sampled less often to ensure the water complies with all safety standards.

Failure to meet standards

The Council will investigate and establish the cause of a failure to meet the required standards.

In the first instance advice will be given on various improvements which can be made.

If a solution cannot be agreed informally, then the Council will take formal action to ensure that a failure is remedied and that any risk to health is removed or minimised.

Formal action may include:

Restriction notice

A restriction notice prohibits or restricts the use of the supply.

It is an offence to breach a restriction notice or fail to comply with it.

There is a right of appeal to the Magistrates' Court.


If a private supply is unwholesome but does not present a risk to health, an authorisation of different standards for chemical parameters is issued

This is a temporary measure allowing up to 2 years for the necessary action to be taken.

Improvement notice

An improvement notice states what works or measures are necessary to remedy the failure, and the compliance period.

The Council can carry out the works and recover the costs.

It is an offence not to comply with an improvement notice.

There is a right of appeal to the Magistrates' Court.