In Argyll and Bute many premises, both private and commercial, get their water from a private supply. A private water supply is one which is not provided by Scottish Water. They may come from a loch, burn, spring, well, river, pond, borehole, even rainwater collection or a combination of these.
The supply may serve only one property or a number of different properties. In Argyll and Bute we have approximately 3,500 private water supplies serving over 8000 inhabitants and many more visitors.
Private water supplies are, by their nature, very vulnerable to contamination that may cause waterborne infections or other ill effects. Contamination can be bacteriological in nature, from faecal matter such as human sewerage or animal droppings, or may arise from chemical sources, such as fertilizer or pesticide run-off from fields, deterioration of distribution pipe work (e.g Lead, copper, nickel or zinc) or natural sources such as soils and rocks (e.g. Iron, manganese, arsenic).
Private Water Supply Registration
All private water supplies must be registered with the Council and we are continually updating our existing register.
The register of private supplies may be shared with other public bodies such as Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to ensure that the water quality of these supplies is not compromised by agricultural or forestry activities, new developments or pollution incidents etc.
We may also from time to time contact you with relevant information should legislation change etc. It is also essential that we are able to contact everyone who may be using a supply in the event a problem occurs.
Types of private water supplies
There are two types of supplies that are categorised based on the Regulations that govern them. Both must meet wholesomeness standards.
- 2017 - Regulated Supplies - Supplies serving 50 or more persons in total, or supplies to commercial or public activities irrespective of size, (these are regulated by the Water Intended for Human Consumption (Private Supplies) (Scotland) 2017), or
- 2006 - Type B Supplies - Supplies serving only domestic premises with less than 50 persons in total supplied (These are regulated by the Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006).
2017 Regulated supplies fall within the provisions of the E.C. Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC) which require each supply to be sampled and analysed for a wide range of parameters at least once a year. These supplies serve premises of a commercial or public nature and includes self -catering premises, hotels, schools, food businesses, factories, sports centres, B&B's, campsites, village halls and domestic let property (including private landlords and Social Landlords such as Housing Associations) Commercial premises are also required to display an information notice. This can also be obtained from your local Environmental Health office. Guidance for those providing self-catering accommodation with a Private Water Supply is also available.
We routinely monitor these high risk supplies as part of our statutory duties via the sampling programme. The information gathered is made available in the form of a Public Register of Private Supplies. In addition these supplies are also required to have a Risk Assessment carried out by the Local Authority at least once in every 5 years and more frequently if changes occur. This risk assessment provides information to owners and users regarding any actions to be taken to improve the supply and reduce any risks to human health that may arise from its use.
2006 Type B supplies are required to comply with a limited range of parameters that are defined in the regulations and do not form part of our statutory sampling or risk assessment programme. We will carry out sampling or risk assessments on request and there is usually a charge for this service.
I have a private water supply. Should I have the water tested?
Private water supplies can be prone to contamination by harmful bacteria or chemicals etc. Therefore, it makes good sense to have your water tested to monitor the water quality and take further actions as necessary. If your private water supply serves the public, or a commercial operation then you are required by law to have it tested, this includes self -catering premises, hotels, schools, food businesses, factories, sports centres, B&B's, campsites, village halls and domestic let property (including private landlords and Social Landlords such as Housing Associations). The frequency of monitoring will depend on various risk factors but will be at least once in every calendar year, higher risk or supplies that fail to meet the required standards will be sampled more often. A register of supplies and sample results is held by Environmental Health. The cost of such sampling is borne by owners of the properties served by the supply.
If your property is served by a single domestic supply, it may not have been sampled and there are currently no plans to sample such supplies unless a problem is drawn to the Council`s attention. However, should you wish to have your supply sampled, it can be arranged. A charge is made for this service.
Advice to users and visitors
If premises are served by a private water supply then the water is not provided by a statutory water undertaker – such as Scottish Water. This may mean that the amount of treatment the water has had may be different to the water that many people on a public supply are used to. For example, a private water supply may not have chlorine added to it to kill any potentially harmful micro-organisms, although other treatment may have been applied to achieve a similar effect.
If you have a commercial premises served by a private supply in Scotland you are required by law to display a Drinking Water Poster to notify all users. This includes all holiday letting premises and self catering units/caravans, food premises, workplaces and domestic residential lets. Users and visitors can then consider whether you need to take additional precautions to protect your health or the health of your family.
Although the quality of private water supplies is often acceptable for drinking and other purposes this may not always be the case. Under certain circumstances the quality may be lower than you would expect from a public supply. There are occasions when there is an increased risk of harmful bacteria affecting any supply. This is most likely to happen after heavy rainfall or snowmelt, or when the water is highly coloured.
Some people are more vulnerable to harmful bacteria than others. These include:
- Bottle-fed infants
- The very young
- The elderly
- Anyone whose immune system might be compromised.
For these people we recommend that you always boil water used for the following purposes:
- Drinking, including preparing cold drinks and ice,
- Brushing teeth,
- Preparing food, particularly that which will be eaten uncooked such as salads and fruit.
We would also recommend that you boil water used for the above purposes for use by anyone after periods of heavy rainfall or snow melt, or if the water is particularly coloured (as this can affect water treatment efficiency).
Water needs only to be brought to the boil. It can then be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Alternatively, you can use bought bottled water for these purposes.
If you decide to use bottled water, remember that any water bottled water labelled “natural mineral water” may contain too much sodium for babies. Check the label to make sure the figure for sodium (Na) isn’t higher than 200milligrams (mg) per litre.
If you require more information with regard to the drinking water quality or treatment on a particular supply then the owner or owner’s representative should be able to assist.
Water that fails to meet certain chemical standards should not be boiled before use and an alternative supply should be sought in this instance. Such supplies are those affected by lead or arsenic, in these cases a notice should be displayed informing users of the issue. But if you have any doubts contact the owner of the premises for the most recent sample results.