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What is a private water supply?

Safe drinking water is essential for good health. Your tap water can either be provided by a water company, or it can come from a private supply, such as water from a well, spring, or borehole.

The Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016 apply to everybody who owns or uses a private water supply. They have been introduced to ensure that water from private supplies is wholesome, so that people who drink water or consume food or drinks made from private supplies do so without risk to their health.

The regulations provide guidance on our requirements for risk assessment, sampling and action that must be taken if a private water supply fails to meet the required standard to protect the health of anyone likely to drink the water.

How do I register my private water supply?

The Regulations require us to keep a record of all private water supplies within our district.

If you have a private water supply, or are planning to install one, you must register the supply with us. This is for a number of reasons:

  1. Private water supplies fall into one of four categories, each requiring different levels of monitoring by local authorities. Once your private water supply is registered, we use this information to ensure that the water supply is being monitored sufficiently. Please be aware, if the property being served by a private water supply has a commercial use, for example, a rented property, holiday let or a bed & breakfast, or you intend to change to a commercial use, you need to inform the Environmental Health department immediately.
  2. Local Authorities are consulted on many activities, such as planning applications, which could affect private water supplies if these activities are located close to the source of the supply. It is therefore essential that we are aware of the location of private water supplies so we can access this information when making a decision.
  3. It is also essential that we are able to contact everyone who may be using the water supply in the event of a problem with the supply.

How to register your private water supply

To register your private water supply please complete a Private Water Supplies Registration Form and return to the Environmental Health department and return it to us either by email or in the post.

Categories of private water supplies:

Large supplies - a water supply serving over 50 people; or produces more than 10 m³ per day of water; or is used for commercial purposes, for example, rented properties, holiday lets, a bed & breakfast; or is public premises. These supplies require sampling at least once a year and a risk assessment undertaken every five years. If you are a tenant in rented accommodation that is served by a private water supply, please check with your landlord, or us, that the private water supply is registered with us so we can check that the water supply is wholesome and safe to drink.

Small supplies- a water supply serving two or more premises; produces less than 10m³ of water; and is not used for commercial purposes, or for public premises. These supplies require sampling and a risk assessment every five years.

Single supplies - a water supply that serves only one private domestic dwelling where no commercial activity takes place. (Rented properties would not fall into this category because of the commercial use). These supplies will only be sampled and risk assessed at the owner's request. This is often requested when people are looking to buy a property on a private water supply.

Private distribution systems - a water supply that is supplied by a water company and then further distributed by the account holder to a third party, for example, caravan parks. These supplies require a risk assessment every five years and sampling at a frequency dependent of the outcome of the risk assessment.

Why does my private water supply need a risk assessment?

If you have a private water supply we want to help you ensure it is safe to use.

The Private Water Supply (England) Regulations 2016 require us to undertake a risk assessment survey of certain private water supplies every five years. This does not, however, include domestic properties where only a single house uses the supply. 

The risk assessment aims to identify any potential problems that could affect the quality of the water supply so that these may be dealt with before a problem occurs. 

The risk assessment involves a site visit to survey the supply from the source of the water (spring or borehole) through to the consumer's tap. This includes any water holding tanks, the distribution system and any water treatment system on the supply. Following the site visit, we will contact you to discuss any improvement measures required to protect or improve the quality of your water supply. 

A fee is charged for the risk assessment.  The total cost is divided between all of the properties on that supply.

What happens if my private water supply fails its routine sampling?

If we take a routine sample from a private water supply and it fails to meet the national drinking water standards, we will contact the affected properties and provide advice.

If the supply is considered to be hazardous to health, for example, as a result of certain bacteria being present within the sample, then:

  • we will notify all users on that supply of the failure and provide advice on any action to be taken, for example, to boil all water before use;
  • we may carry out an investigation to identify the cause of the failure;
  • we will serve a Notice on the person(s) responsible for the supply. This will detail the action that needs to be undertaken to restore the water quality to the required level. Failure to comply with the Notice may result in prosecution. Once the water quality is at the required level, we will notify all the users of the supply.

If the supply fails to meet the national drinking water standards, but the failure is not considered to be a hazard to health, for example, high levels of iron which may stain laundry but may not be considered a risk to health, then:

  • we will notify all users on that supply and provide advice on any actions that would improve the quality;
  • we may carry out an investigation to identify the cause of the failure;
  • we will work informally with the person(s) responsible for that supply to try and improve the quality of the supply.

Help With Fixing Your Water Supply

You may be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Grant to help remedy your problem. For more information contact Homelife Carlisle, Home Improvement Agency, Carlisle City Council. Email [email protected] or you can call us on 01228 817111.

 Private Water Supplies - Rented Properties

I am a tenant in a rented property

If you are a tenant in a rented property which has a private water supply you must check with your landlord or with us that the supply is registered with us. We will need to sample the supply every year and carry out a risk assessment every five years. We charge a fee for this work which is typically paid by the landlord.

You, your family and visitors to the property have a right to expect clean, safe drinking water.

I am a landlord of a rented property

 If you are a landlord of a rented property which is served by a private water supply you have a duty to provide safe, clean, drinking water. You must register the private water supply with us so we can undertake annual quality sampling and a risk assessment of the supply every five years.

Private water supply sampling and risk assessment costs

Sampling and risk assessment costs

We charge a fee for the collection and analysis of the routine quality samples we are required to take.

there is also a fee for the risk assessment survey which we are required to carry out every five years.  Where the water supply serves more than one property, we will split the total cost between the properties using the supply.

Please follow the link to fees and charges or call the Environmental Health Department for further information.

Dairy farms

We can also collect and analyse samples from dairy farms on a private water supply to provide evidence of dairy compliance with hygiene standards. If you are a dairy farmer that requires this service, please contact us to request the cost and book a sample collection time.

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