Private water supplies

It is our responsibility to monitor drinking water supplied to premises in the district and to ensure it is of good quality.

Our Environmental Protection team routinely monitor the quality of private water supplies to premises in the district.


A private water supply (PWS) is any water supply which is not provided by a water company (water undertaker) and which is not considered to be a "mains" supply. PWS's can be obtained from a variety of sources including springs, wells, boreholes, rivers, lakes and rainwater. All PWS's 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 in the water.  

The Regulations

PWS's are regulated under The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009 (the Regulations) which came into force on 1 January 2010. They are a result of a European Directive that requires everybody to have access to a wholesome supply of water, equal in quality to the mains supply. The Regulations apply to all private supplies intended for human consumption. This includes water used for domestic purposes (drinking, cooking, food preparation and washing) or in a food-production process.

Also included under the Regulations are private distribution systems (PDS's). These are supplies where mains water from a water company is distributed to users through pipework owned by a third party, for example on a campsite.

Our role

Under section 77 of the Water Industry Act 1991 we have a duty to check the quality of all water supplies within our area. The Regulations are concerned with the wholesomeness of water obtained from PWS's and aim to protect health by applying the same quality standards as the mains water supply.  The Regulations require us to sample and analyse water from the supplies and to carry out a risk assessment upon them to determine the risk present. The regulations affect all private supplies although those serving a single dwelling will only be risk assessed and sampled upon request.

Classification and frequency of sampling

  • Commercial and larger domestic supplies - all supplies of any size that are used as part of a commercial or to supply a building used by the public and large domestic private supplies serving 50 or more people a day. A full risk assessment to be completed every five years and sampled at least once a year.
  • Small supplies - supplies to two or more dwellings used only for domestic purposes by less than 50 people. A risk assessment must be completed and the supply must be monitored at least once every five years.
  • Small single supplies - where water is supplied to a single dwelling for domestic purposes only. Sampling and risk assessment will only be undertaken if requested to do so by owner or occupier.
  • Private distribution systems - water supplied by a water company which is further distributed by third party pipes. A risk assessment must be carried out every five years and a sampling programme devised based on the results.

What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is a check on the condition of the supply. It involves looking at the source of the supply and 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 or 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.

Will advance notice of sampling be given?

We will endeavour to make arrangements with the owner or occupier where possible prior to carrying out a risk assessment and taking samples.

Where will the sample be taken from?

One of our officers 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 will we be sampling for?

We will be assessing the water for both chemical and microbiological parameters as stated in the 2009 Regulations. The exact parameters that we will sample for will depend upon the classification of the supply, the source type of the supply and the land use surrounding the supply. The results of the sampling will be forwarded to you with a letter within 28 days of us receiving them from the laboratory. The letter will explain the results and inform you if any remedial action is required to safeguard your supply.

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 surface water.
  • Clearing the site of overgrown vegetation.
  • Repairing old leaking pipes and taps.
  • Replacing lead pipe.
  • Installing appropriate water treatment to ensure satisfactory chemical and microbiological quality.

Sometimes it may prove necessary to install a filter to remove or lower the level of a particular substance. Examples include the following.

  • 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.

Charges for risk assessment, sampling and analysis

The Regulations allow us to recover our costs in carrying out a risk assessment, sampling and analysis. The Regulations set maximum amounts and these are listed in the table below:



 Maximum charge permitted

SSDC charging scheme


Risk Assessment


£72.00 + £36.00 per hour spent on site

Water samples taken as part of the risk assessment will be charged at the additional analysis cost.



£85.00 + analysis* costs (see below)


Charge for a visit to take a sample.



£36.00 per hour spent on investigation + analysis costs (see below)

Carried out in the event of a sample failure. Water sample analysis cost will also be charged at the additional analysis cost. 




Application by the owner of a supply for permission to breach a standard temporarily whilst remedial work is carried out.


Regulation 10

(Small domestic supplies)


Actual lab costs up to the maximum

Where a supply provides <10m3/day or <50 people and is used for domestic purposes

Check monitoring (Commercial supplies)


Actual lab costs up to the maximum

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.

Audit monitoring (Commercial supplies)


Actual lab costs up to the maximum

Audit parameters are additional samples taken only if the supply is at risk of failing them or if there is no historic data available.  


Persons liable to be charged

The costs of sampling and risk assessing will be payable by the supply owner, the supply users or any person who requests the sampling or risk assessment be carried out. Where more than one person is liable the costs will be apportioned equally. We will only charge enough to cover the costs of carrying out our duties, up to the maximum amounts shown above.

Legal powers available to improve the quality of supplies

The new Private Water Supplies Regulations will require us to investigate and establish the cause of a failure to meet the required standards. Advice will be given on various improvements which can be made and formal action to ensure that a failure is remedied and that any risk to health is removed or minimised may be taken. Formal action may include:

  • Restriction notice - If the private supply constitutes a risk to human health we have a new power to serve a 'Restriction Notice' on the owner to prohibit or restrict the use of the supply. It will be an offence to breach a Restriction Notice or fail to comply with it. There is a right of appeal to the Magistrates' Court.
  • Authorisations - If a private supply is unwholesome but does not present a risk to health we have the power to grant an 'authorisation' of different standards for chemical parameters to the responsible person. This is a temporary measure allowing up to two years for the necessary remedial action to be implemented.
  • Improvement notice - Where we cannot resolve a problem informally and we do not grant an authorisation we may serve an 'Improvement Notice' on the responsible person(s) (where there is a risk to health). We will specify in the Notice what works or measures are necessary to remedy the failure and the compliance period. We have the power to carry out the works and recover the costs. It is an offence not to comply with an Improvement Notice and there is a right of appeal to the Magistrates' Court.

New Private Water Supplies

If you wish to create a new PWS by abstracting water from a river, lake, spring or borehole you may need an abstraction license from the Environment Agency. The requirement to hold an abstraction license is dependent on the volume of water you wish to abstract. For further information or to apply for an abstraction license please contact the Environment Agency on 03708 506506 or email them at

If you create a new private water supply you should inform the District Council about it, this will enable us to record it on our database and help to protect it by preventing actions such as sewage waste spreading from taking place nearby. If you intend to use the supply as part of a commercial activity, at a public premises or to supply more than one domestic premises you must inform us about it in order for us to make sure the necessary sampling and risk assessing of the supply takes place.

Related links

General guidance on private water supplies can be found at the following websites:


Mains Water Supplies

The water companies supplying drinking water to premises our district provide us with information about the quality of water supplied on an annual basis. Enquiries about the quality of mains water should be referred to the relevant water company in the first instance:

  • Wessex Water tel: 08457 300 600
  • South West Water tel: 0800 169 1144.

If customers remain unhappy about the service from the water company further advice can be obtained from OFWAT (Office of the Water Services Regulator). We can investigate quality problems in some circumstances.


Lead Water Supplies

Water which is left standing in lead pipes for more than a couple of hours can pick up lead from the pipes.  Our advice is that you run off a washing-up bowl of water before using it for drinking or cooking if the water has been standing for some time.  The water companies will replace any lead pipes connecting your house to the mains beyond the property boundary; the length between the property boundary and the tap is your responsibility.