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Hazardous Substances - COSHH Regulations - Private Water Supplies

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002
Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009
Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992

Private Water Supplies

Under the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009, Local Authorities became responsible for monitoring water quality from private water supplies intended for human consumption, namely:

(a)           all water either in its original state or after treatment, intended for drinking, cooking, food preparation or other domestic purposes, regardless of its origin and whether it is supplied from a distribution network, from a tanker, or in bottles or containers;

(b)           all water used in any food-production undertaking for the manufacture, processing, preservation or marketing of products or substances intended for human consumption

Private water supplies are those not provided by a statutory undertaker such as Severn Trent Water Plc or Thames Water Plc. They include sources such as springs, wells and boreholes. 

The Regulations also apply to 'mains' water which is then further distributed. These private distribution networks include caravan and camp sites, shopping centres, and private or publically owned estates where water is distributed to other buildings.

The Regulations apply to the supply of water to holiday homes as part of a business.

Requirement to carry out a risk assessment

Local Authorities must carry out a risk assessment every five years (or earlier if it considers that the existing risk assessment is inadequate) of each private supply that supplies water to any premises (other than a supply to a single dwelling not used for any commercial activity).  The risk assessment is to establish whether there is a significant risk of supplying water that would constitute a potential danger to human health. It must also carry out a risk assessment of a private supply to a single dwelling not used for any commercial activity if requested to do so by the owner or occupier of that dwelling.

Local Authorities must complete a risk assessment of all private water supplies and private distribution networks before 2015.  The cost of the risk assessment and sampling must be borne by the supplier.

Should I get my supply checked?

Your supply will be checked by the Local Authority anyway, but if you suspect something is wrong with it, it is a good idea to request that it is sampled.

If you supply water to others, for example by renting out holiday accommodation or using water for food production, you have a duty of care towards the people who consume the water. If you think your water may be unsafe, you should have it checked and in the meantime may have to advise that they boil all water for drinking and food production, or suggest the use of bottled water.

Why are private water supplies monitored so closely?

Private water supplies can pose a threat to health unless they are properly protected and treated. They can become contaminated with bacteria, protozoa, and parasites. These are not necessarily harmful, but there is a chance that the supply could be infected with contaminants that are dangerous to some people. Private supplies are more likely to be contaminated because they are more vulnerable to infection, and are not treated to the same standard as public supplies.

What are the sources of contamination?

These include:

Micro-organisms - serious illnesses can be contracted from water contaminated with certain micro-organisms. Water supplies drawn from farmed land where animals graze or manure is spread are at most risk. Discharges from cesspits or septic tanks are another likely source of contamination. Everyone who drinks water contaminated with micro-organisms risks becoming ill, but the risk is greater for those who do not drink the water regularly, for example visitors or guests.

Chemicals - a range of chemicals can affect private water supplies such as pesticides and nitrates from agricultural use, or manganese, iron or other metals from the supply system. Your supply can be tested for these.

Lead - lead poisoning can be very harmful to small children. If your water supply passes through a lead tank or pipes, it is likely that there will be dissolved lead in your water and you should replace your tank or pipes.

How can I keep my supply safe?

All parts of your supply should be inspected regularly to check that it is in good working order, and has not been interfered with or damaged.

Supplies from springs, wells and boreholes - check source is adequately protected to stop surface water getting into your supply.

Supplies from streams, rivers, lakes or ponds - the collection arrangement should include a settlement pond to allow larger particles to settle out before water flows into the supply. The collection arrangement should also include a sand or gravel filter to remove organic material and small animals. Ensure that the water being collected is not contaminated by discharges from a septic tank, sewage discharge or run-off from farmland.

Supplies from farmland where animals graze or manure is spread - divert rainwater run-off so that it does not flow into your supply. Check that the farmer is aware of the drinking water supply and the need to avoid contaminating it. Fencing may be necessary to prevent farm and other animals from gaining access to areas where they could contaminate the water source.

Should I get my supply treated?

If your supply is contaminated, or is likely to become contaminated, you may install a treatment system. If the supply serves more than one household, it is better to install treatment for the supply as a whole rather than per individual household. There is a range of treatment methods available, contact us for advice about which one to choose. The most common form of treatment is an ultra-violet sterilizer which uses U-V light to kill bacteria in the water.

If the risk assessment undertaken by the Local Authority determines that the supply is unsafe it may serve a notice setting out the steps to be taken to resolve the issues or to prohibit the continuation of the supply.  A failure to comply with the notice may result in a fine and up to two years imprisonment.

Purchase a risk assessment
Contact us to conduct a risk assessment

Additional Reading:

Hazardous Substances
Hazard Symbols
Legionnaires Disease
Cooling Towers & Evaporising Condensers
Private Water Supplies

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health

Essential Information for the Providers of Residential Accommodation

Legionnaires - Guidance for Employers