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Private Water Supplies

A private water supply is a supply not provided by a water company such as Anglian Water. Approximately 1% of the population in England and Wales has a private water supply to their home. Most private water supplies are found in rural locations and are abstracted from wells, boreholes, springs, streams or rainwater. In SHDC there are approximately 9 private water supplies, mainly single properties.

If you have never received any correspondence from the Council relating to your private water supply, we may not know of its existence and we would therefore be grateful if you would get in touch with us by emailing or calling 01775 761161.

Private water supplies can be more hazardous than mains water supplies because they can be susceptible to contamination. If your water is contaminated you could be at risk of severe illness or even death.

You may have been drinking from your supply for many years and think that it is safe, but you can't be sure just based on the look, smell and taste of your water. You will have also built up some level of immunity to anything in it. Visitors to your property are unlikely to have this protection.

Your water may contain organisms or substances that could be a threat to health, particularly for more vulnerable people like children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems. Contact your GP if you are worried about anyone's health after drinking from a private water supply.

The Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016 (as amended) aim to protect the health of people consuming water from the supply. The water should be wholesome, safe to drink and of quality standards similar to those of mains water supplies.

The regulations put the responsibilities of the Local Authority as a regulator to monitor your supply, and if necessary, require you to take action if your supply does not meet the quality standards prescribed in the regulations.

Further guidance on private water supplies can be found on the Drinking Water Inspectorate website  This includes information you may need if you are buying a house with a private water supply.

Who do the Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016 (as amended) apply to?

The Regulations apply to anyone who owns or uses a private water supply intended for human consumption.  They look to safeguard public health by ensuring that supplies are wholesome, meaning safe to drink, and sufficient.

If you are operating a food business from your premises (e.g. home caterer, bed and breakfast) you must have wholesome, potable, water at all times.

We maintain a register of all private supplies in the SHDC area that we are aware of. If you have a private supply and have never received any correspondence form us, please do get in touch.  In some instances we also carry out sampling of supplies and undertake risk assessments on your behalf.

What do the Regulations require for my type of supply?

This depends on the classification of your supply. The classifications are as follows:

Supply TypeDescriptionRequirements
Regulation 9, large and/or commercial supplyA water supply serving over 50 people; or produces more than 10m3 per day of water; or is used for commercial purposes e.g. rented properties, holiday lets, bed & breakfasts; or is a public premises.A risk assessment is required at least once every 5 years and sampling at least once a year.
Regulation 10, small supplyA water supply serving less than 50 people; or produces less than 10m3 per day of water; and is not used for commercial purposes or for public premises.A risk assessment is required at least once every 5 years and basic sampling at least once every 5 years.
Regulation 10, single domestic dwelling A water supply that serves only one private domestic dwelling where no commercial activity takes place. N.B. Rented properties would not fall into this category, because of the commercial use they would be classed as a Regulation 9 SupplyThese supplies do not require routine sampling or a risk assessment. However, a sample or risk assessment can be undertaken by us at the owner/occupiers request.

 Fee's and charges

The council use suitably accredited (UKAS ISO/IEC 17025) independent samplers, sampling methodology and laboratories.

The local authority is permitted to recover its costs for both undertaking the risk assessment and undertaking the sampling. It does not make a profit on this service.

Please contact us for an up-to-date list of fee's and charges by emailing or calling 01775 761161.

Maintenance of supply & investigation/ action in the event of a failure

We strongly recommend that private water supplies and their distribution and treatment systems are properly maintained to prevent contamination of drinking water.

We recommend that the supply and its equipment are serviced regularly by a qualified water engineer.

Wells and boreholes should be suitably covered and protected. Loft or other storage tanks should be checked and cleaned. Any treatment systems such as ultra-violet (UV) and reverse osmosis or cartridge filters should be checked and maintained in accordance with the manufacturers' guidelines.

Detailed advice can be found on the Drinking Water Inspectorate website

If any sample fails to meet the prescribed quality standards, the supply will be investigated to try and determine the reason for this failure. If a wholesome supply cannot be achieved through implementing physical changes to the supply network, then additional or upgraded water treatment apparatus may be required.


An improvement notice may be served that specifies the improvements to be made to the supply, the persons who should carry out the work and when this work should be completed by.

In the event of a failure that is liable to cause an immediate risk to human health, a notice will be served that places a restriction or prohibition on the use of the supply.

Failure to comply with a notice may result in prosecution in the Magistrates' or Crown Court.


Appeals can be made to the Magistrates' Court or the Secretary of State, depending on which notice is served.

What to do if your supply runs out (insufficiency)

Following your risk assessment, you should prepare a Drinking Water Safety Plan. As part of this you should identify where you will obtain safe drinking water from in case your private water supply runs out.

If your water supply begins to run out you can be prepared by:

  • keeping an emergency supply of bottled water
  • asking your neighbours for help
  • In a dry spell of weather there are things you can do to use less water, such as taking shorter showers, don't use the bath
  • don't leave taps running during cooking or cleaning
  • use other sources of water, like rainwater, for flushing toilets

Detailed advice can be found on the Drinking Water Inspectorate website

What is a private distribution network?

These private water supplies occur when the water undertaker or licensed supplier provides a mains water supply to the boundary of a primary premises, where after the water is distributed via a private distribution network to further privately owned buildings/properties.

Please contact us by emailing or calling 01775 761161 if you think you may be on a private distribution network for site specific advice.