Private water supplies

Frequently asked questions

What if my private water supply serves the public or a commercial operation, or is part of a large domestic supply?

We have a legal duty to assess and sample the supply at least once a year. This includes:

  • self catering properties
  • food businesses
  • factories
  • sports centres
  • hotels
  • B&Bs
  • schools
  • campsites

What if property is served by a small domestic supply?

  • It may not have been sampled, and there are currently no plans to sample such supplies unless it is suspected that there is a problem with the supply.
  • Should you wish to have your supply sampled, it can be arranged.

If you have questions about Private water supplies, contact environmental health online or, for more information visit the drinking water quality regulator website.

Is there any grant funding available to help me improve my private water supply?

  • Yes, applications can be made by owners, occupiers or landlords.
  • Grants of up to £800 per property are available without means testing.
  • Grants cannot be issued retrospectively for works which are already started or completed, or to allow users to connect to the public mains water supply.

I have not been feeling well, what illnesses are associated with private water supplies?

  • Private water supplies can pose a threat to health unless the water is properly protected and treated.
  • You may not be able to tell whether your water is safe, as contaminated water may smell, taste and look normal.
  • Water borne infections such as Campylobacter, E.coli (O157), Cryptosporidium and Giardia can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, whilst chemical contaminants are more likely to lead to long term health effects.
  • If you think your water supply may be affecting your health, contact your GP.

Can you check mains water?

  • 'Mains water' is provided by a licensed water authority. In Scotland, Scottish Water is the licensed water authority.
  • For most problems involving the Public Mains supply, please contact Scottish Water online in the first instance or call 0845 601 8855.

The water sample taken from my supply has failed. What does this mean?

  • An Environmental Health Officer (EHO) will issue appropriate advice to every person who manages the supply.
  • The water supply can fail for a number of reasons. The absence of treatment may be one reason.
  • Where treatment (e.g. filters, ultraviolet disinfection and chlorination) is installed it is important that it is regularly maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Notify in writing all consumers of the water at the properties that you are responsible for.

I have one tap fitted with treatment which provides safe drinking water, is this sufficient?

No:

  • Any treatment should be 'point of entry', designed to treat all of the water entering the property.
  • All water used on the premises must be safe for drinking and hygiene purposes, such as showering and teeth brushing.
  • 'Point of use' treatment (e.g. applied to only one tap) is no longer acceptable.
  • There are non-means tested grants of up to £800 per property available to assist with the cost of improving your supply.

I have existing treatment and have never maintained it. Do I need to?

Yes:

  • Your water treatment system needs regular maintenance
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions
  • The maintenance frequency will need to be increased during prolonged periods of heavy rainfall
  • Keep a record of all maintenance carried out on the system

I have/wish to start up a food business on a private water supply. Are there any implications?

  • A significant number of food businesses, such as hotels and guest houses, utilise private water supplies.
  • The safety of any private water supply could have a direct bearing on the safety of the food provided for consumption.
  • Failure to assure a consistent safe supply of water could pose a risk to health, not only via consumption, but indirectly via contaminated food stuffs.
  • Documented food safety management system should include the necessary control measures, monitoring procedures, contingency plans, etc.

My private water supply has run dry. What do I do?

The responsibility lies with the users of the supply or any third party who provides or manages the supply by contract. Private water supplies may provide insufficient quantities of water for a number of reasons:

  • periods of drought or severe cold weather (when the source dries up or freezes)
  • undetected leaks
  • pipe bursts
  • pump failures
  • permanently disconnected by a person who has control of the supply

Users need to consider how they could manage should the supply be disrupted for any reason.First steps are likely to include reducing current usage to conserve the supply and considering where you could access drinking water should the supply stop.

General advice on water conservation, applicable to both private and public supplies can be found on the Scottish Water website.

Private water supply source and maintenance

What do I need to know about my supply?

  • Who is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance? If this is not clear, you must reach an agreement with the other users.
  • Where is the source?
  • How does it get to your property?
  • Is it treated in any way?
  • Is the treatment equipment in good order and maintained and serviced regularly?
  • Has your supply been tested?

How do I protect the source?

  • Check that the source is adequately protected by watertight covers to stop surface water entering your supply, particularly at times of heavy rain.
  • Ensure that the water being collected is not contaminated by discharges from a septic tank, or slurry spreading, or any nearby sources of pollution e.g. pesticide or oil storage.
  • Check that neighbouring farmers are aware of the drinking water supply and the need to avoid contaminating it by farming activities.
  • Fencing may be necessary to stop farm and other animals from interfering with the source.
  • Divert rain-water run-off so it does not flow into your supply (for example, with a small ditch leading away from your supply).

What checks do I need to make with pipes and tanks?

  • Check that pipework bringing the water from your source is in good condition, does not leak and is protected from being damaged by weather, animals or farm machinery.
  • Storage tanks should have watertight walls and lids.
  • Overflow pipes or vents should be protected by a suitable mesh to prevent small animals entering the tank/chamber.
  • A schedule should be put in place for regular checking and maintenance of pipework and storage tanks.

How do I ensure treatment systems are maintained?

  • Treatment installed on your supply should be maintained and serviced as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • UV treatment should be regularly checked to ensure that it is operating correctly and the pre-filter replaced, as required, dependent on the quality of the source water.
  • UV lamps should be routinely replaced annually.
  • Where chlorination is used to disinfect the supply, controls should be in place to maintain the required levels of chlorine at all times, especially over weekends.
  • Treatment/disinfection in place should be sufficient to adequately treat the water even during periods when your water quality may be poor.

What is a risk assessment?

During a risk assessment the whole supply will be assessed from the source to the taps. Areas of potential contamination will be identified and advice will be given on how to reduce the associated risks. Samples will also be taken to assess the quality of the drinking water.

Lead in drinking water

What are the chances of lead being found in my drinking water?

In Scotland, lead does not occur naturally in significant concentrations in our water supplies. The problem arises when drinking water comes into contact with lead supply pipes, lead tanks, lead solder joints on copper pipes, or inferior quality brass fittings and taps, particularly for longer periods - for example overnight, weekends or holidays periods. This can result in high lead levels in the drinking water supply.

Information on the health effects of exposure to lead is available from the NHS.