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Private Water Supplies

Hands washing with soap

If you have supply water that comes from wells, boreholes, springs, rivers or streams, lakes or ponds or a private distribution system (mains water that is privately distributed by a second party) - this is a private water supply.

The supply may serve just one property or several properties through a network of pipes. If your supply serves others, for example other domestic premises, renting out holiday accommodation or to commercial premises with employees or food production, it is your responsibility to ensure the water is wholesome and does not post a risk to human health.

The Law

The Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016, as amended ("the Regulations"), cover all private water supplies and private distribution systems in England. They seek to protect public health by:

  • Setting out the drinking water standards which must be adhered to
  • Placing a duty on the Local Authority to determine compliance with these standards
  • Categorising private water supplies with different requirements

Risk assessments

The regulations require each supply (excluding single private domestic dwellings) to undergo a risk assessment every five years to determine how regularly the supply needs to be tested and for which parameters i.e. which types of bacteria, chemicals etc.

This involves surveying the supply, from the source through to point-of-use, to identify factors that could lead to contamination of the supply. Factors influencing sampling requirements include the type of source (borehole, well etc.), how well it is protected, the treatment methods in place, the number of people served by the supply and the intended use of the water. 

The risk assessment must be undertaken by the Local Authority and the Local Authority charges for this service.

Supply Category

  • Regulation 10 - Single Domestic Dwelling.  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 they would be classed as a Regulation 9 Supply).
  • Regulation 10 - A water supply serving less than 50 people; or produces less than 10m³ of water; and is not used for commercial purposes, or for public premises.
  • Regulation 9 - 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.
  • Regulation 8 - 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

Risk assessments will normally be carried out by prior appointment, and where possible details of what needs to be inspected/considered will be provided prior to the site visit.  This is to ensure that the owner or occupier can arrange access to the various parts of the water system, arrange for someone with detailed knowledge of the system to attend and generally reduce the amount of time we are required to be on site, thereby reducing the cost.


Samples from private water supplies will normally be taken from a consumer tap and then sent for analysis at an approved laboratory. 

The sampling frequency and the extent of analysis needed will depend on the results of the risk assessment.  The Local Authority will charge for every sample taken and analysed.

Investigations and Analysis

Any sample that fails to meet the prescribed concentrations laid out in the regulations must be investigated to determine the reason for the failure and to identify what action is needed to improve the supply. This may mean further sampling being conducted at the source, holding tanks and/or other parts of the infrastructure to assist the investigation. If a wholesome supply cannot be achieved through implementing physical changes to the supply network, the water will require treatment before use.

A wide range of treatment options are available, and these will be set out in the findings of the investigation. 

Relevant Person

The relevant person is essentially the person(s) responsible for the water supply.

  • The owner or occupier of the premises supplied; and
  • The owner or occupier of the premises where the source of the supply is situated even if the source lies outside the local authority's area; and
  • Any other person who exercises powers of management or control in relation to that source

These definitions are intended to provide sufficient flexibility to take account of the wide variety of arrangements by which people access private water supplies and therefore it is likely that there may be more than one relevant person for a single supply. The implications to the relevant person(s) are dependent on the type of private supply.


The type and design of any treatment methods used to treat raw water will depend on the properties of the water and the presence and concentrations of any contaminants. It is therefore important to choose equipment, suppliers and consultants carefully. For more on water treatment see the DWI website.


In the event of failure, where a supply is found to be 'unwholesome' or a 'risk to human health', a notice will be served either prohibiting or restricting the supply, as appropriate.

The notice will be specific for each supply that has a failure of standards.

This notice can be appealed in a magistrate's court and/or by appeal to the secretary of state, but the notice will remain in force until either it has been complied with or it is suspended by the courts/secretary of state. 


In certain circumstances where a supply fails the water quality standard, but the failure is of a parameter which does not cause a risk to health, the council may grant an 'authorisation' to exceed the statutory limit. This authorisation would be for a temporary period, while measures are put in place to correct the problem.


The Local Authority will charge the responsible person for undertaking the risk assessments and for the sampling. A copy of the relevant fees will be published here shortly. 

Frequently Asked Questions

I'm thinking about buying a property with a private water supply, is their any guidance?

Yes, visit the drinking water inspectorate advice.

Can I do the risk assessment and/or sampling myself?

No both the risk assessment and sampling must be undertaken by the Local Authority.

What should I do if I think there is something wrong with my private water supply? 

If you think something is wrong with the supply or you would like to request a sample to be taken and analysed, you can contact us to discuss your concerns and to arrange for any sampling to be carried out. 

How do I notify you that I have new private water supply?

Simply contact the Council leaving your details and an Officer will make contact with you.

I think I have a problem with my water, but I have a main supply, who do I contact?

You should contact your water company, in Preston this is United Utilities.

Where can I find more information on specific water issues?

Visit the DWI - 'Learn more about your water'.

What should I do if my Private Water Supply runs out?

  • You should find and follow your 'Drinking Water Safety Plan'.
  • You should contact the Council we may be able to arrange for free bottled drinking water.
  • You should contact a competent person to install a temporary supply.
  • You should investigate the source of the loss and ensure the necessary measures are undertaken to prevent a repeat.

The Council cannot make any recommendations but some contractors that maybe able to help you include; 

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