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Private water supplies

Our responsibilities

The Water Industry Act 1991 external websiterequires that local authorities, like North Devon Council, take all steps appropriate to keeping themselves informed about the wholesomeness and sufficiency of drinking waters in their district, including private water supplies.

The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009 external websitecover how we carry out this function, including:
  • the requirement to carry out a risk assessment, at least every five years
  • how often we must take a sample of water from a private supply (based on categorisation of supplies) for analysis
  • investigating the cause of a failure to meet a standard
  • enforcing restrictions and/or improvements, where supplies constitute a potential danger to human health
  • how much we can charge for risk assessing, taking the sample and testing the water.


Private water supply

In general terms a 'private water supply' is any water supply which is not provided by water company. No water rates are paid for these supplies, although the person who owns a supply may make a charge. There are no laws controlling the charges or other conditions connected with private supplies. The owner or person who uses the supply is responsible for repairing and maintaining it. Private supplies are commonly used in the rural parts of North Devon.

A private water supply could serve just one property or it could be a large supply with a large network of pipes supplying water to many properties. The water may come from a spring, a well, a borehole, a pond or a stream.

Quality standards for water

Good quality water is very important to everyday life. Every house must have a good supply of clean, fresh water for it to be fit for occupation. Water is at risk of being contaminated from everything that it comes into contact with.

To ensure that water used in the home and for producing food is of the high quality that is needed to protect public health, the government has set legal quality standards. All water used for drinking, washing and cooking or used in businesses, which produce food or drink must meet these standards. These parameters and standards can be viewed within the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009 link above and see Schedule 1.

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.

Water supply categorisation

There are five categories of supply:

  • Commercial - supplies water to a premises where the water is used for a commercial activity, such as a holiday let, B&B, public house, restaurant etc.
  • Large - supplies an average daily volume of water 10 cubic meters or more
  • Private Distribution System - the water is supplied by a water undertaker or licensed water supplier (Mains) and then further distributed by a person other than the water undertaker or licensed water supplier. An example would be a caravan site.
  • Small Private Shared - the water is supplied to more than one domestic dwelling
  • Single Private Dwelling - a domestic dwelling

All categories with the exception of private single dwellings require risk assessment at least once every five years.

Monitoring intervals are more complex. Commercial and Large supplies require at least annual water sampling to ensure that the water is wholesome and meets the standards for each parameter.

There is no statutory requirement for the council to risk assess or monitor Private Single Dwellings, although a service is provided on request for an agreed fee (s).

Actions in the event of failure

Following a failure to meet a standard, the Council must carry out an investigation to determine the cause.

Whenever a private water supply constitutes a potential danger to human health, either by failure to meet a standard or as a result of risk assessment, the Council must issue a Notice under Regulation 18 to the 'relevant person' to restrict the supply and to address the issues involved. It is an offence to breach a notice served or fail to comply with it. Relevant persons are owners or occupiers of premises benefiting from a private supply or persons exercising powers of management or control in relation to the supply.

Where the private water supply is unwholesome, though not an immediate danger to health, the Council will work informally with the 'relevant person' to improve the supply. The Council does, however, have the power under Section 80 of the 1991 Regulations to enforce compliance/improvement as appropriate.


Monitoring is subject to fees. These charges account for officer time and analytical/equipment costs borne by the Council in discharging its duties.

Further information is available from the links below or by contacting the Council as detailed below.

Further information

Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) external website

DWI Leaflet - New Private Water Supply Regulations external website

Contact information

To contact the Customer Service Centre:

Telephone: 01271 388870
For Typetalk: precede with 18001
Text: 07624 804042
Fax: 01271 388451
Web form: report an incident
Web form: request a service

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Our office hours are Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.
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