Private Water Supplies

In Argyll and Bute many premises, both private and commercial, get their water from a private supply.

Private Water Supplies -

Is one tap, fitted with treatment, providing safe drinking water sufficient?

No, any treatment should be 'point of entry', designed to treat all of the water entering the property. All water used on the premises must be safe for drinking and hygiene purposes, such as showering and tooth brushing. 'Point of use' treatment e.g. applied to only one tap is no longer acceptable. There are non-means tested grants of up to £800 per property available to assist with the cost of improving your supply. 

Is maintaining an existing water treatment necessary?

YES - Your water treatment system needs regular maintenance. We recommend you follow the manufacturer's instructions and bear in mind that the maintenance frequency will need to be increased during prolonged periods of heavy rainfall.  We would recommend that you keep a spare of those pieces of equipment that need to be replaced regularly such as UV bulbs and filters. Bulbs should always be replaced in line with manufacturer's recommendation as their efficiency decreases over time even though they may continue to “glow”. If you have not already received a non-means tested grant you may still be eligible to receive one to carry out improvements to your supply or replace defective or otherwise unsuitable treatment.

What to do if your water supply has run dry

When there are issues relating to sufficiency or quantity with public mains water supplies, Scottish Water take steps to ensure safe drinking water is available to its users. This may include providing bottled water or bowsers.

For private water supplies the situation is different and the responsibility lies with the users of the supply or any third party who provides or manages the supply by contract.

In some circumstances the Council may be able to provide assistance when supplies run dry or are at serious risk of doing so. Assistance is usually limited to the provision of an emergency supply of bottled water for drinking to overcome the immediate need. Water provision is a chargeable service and the private supply user may also be expected to make improvements to prevent and / or reduce the likelihood of future supply failure.

Should you wish to enquire about requesting assistance you can contact us on 01546 605519. This line is only open business hours, 9am - 5pm,  Monday - Friday. Alternatively email  outlining your private water supply situation.

Private water supplies may provide insufficient quantities of water for a number of reasons;

  • during periods of drought or severe cold weather (when the source dries up or freezes),
  • due to undetected leaks, pipe bursts,
  • mechanical failures within the system e.g. pump failures, blocked filters,
  • where users are permanently disconnected by a person who has control of the supply.

It is therefore advisable for users to consider how they could manage should the supply be disrupted for any reason.

First steps are likely to include reducing current usage to conserve the supply and considering where you could access drinking water should the supply cease.

General advice on water conservation, applicable to both private and public supplies can be found on the Scottish Water website. You can also find information about this here.

What you can do to protect your supply

To prevent water supplies failing and, more importantly, reduce ill health associated with drinking contaminated water, users of private supplies are urged to take the following guidance and advice:

i)  Find Out About Your Supply

 Who is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance?  If this is not clear, consider reaching an agreement with the other users.

  • Where is the source?
  • How does it get to your property?
  • Is it treated in any way?
  • Is the treatment equipment in good order and maintained and serviced regularly?
  • Has your supply been tested?

ii) Protect the Source

 Check that the source is adequately protected by watertight covers to stop surface water entering your supply, particularly at times of heavy rain.

  • Ensure that the water being collected is not contaminated by discharges from a septic tank, or slurry spreading, or any nearby sources of pollution e.g. pesticide or oil storage.
  • Check that neighbouring farmers are aware of the drinking water supply and the need to avoid contaminating it by farming activities.
  • Fencing may be necessary to stop farm and other animals from interfering with the source.
  • Divert rain-water run-off so it does not flow into your supply (for example, with a small ditch leading away from your supply).

iii) Check pipes and tanks

  • Check that pipework bringing the water from your source is in good condition, does not leak and is protected from being damaged by weather, animals or farm machinery.
  • Storage tanks should have watertight walls and lids.
  • Overflow pipes or vents should be protected by a suitable mesh to prevent small animals entering the tank/chamber.
  • A schedule should be put in place for regular checking and maintenance of pipework and storage tanks.

iv) Ensure treatment systems are maintained

Treatment installed on your supply should be maintained and serviced as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • UV treatment should be regularly checked to ensure that it is operating correctly and the pre-filter replaced, as required, dependent on the quality of the source water.
  • UV lamps should be routinely replaced, normally annually irrespective of them continuing to “glow”.
  • Where chlorination is used to disinfect the supply, controls should be in place to maintain the required levels of chlorine at all times, especially over weekends.
  • Treatment/disinfection in place should be sufficient to adequately treat the water even during periods when your water quality may be poor.

We can carry out a risk assessment of your supply which will consider all of these matters and provide you with advice regarding any improvements that would be recommended.

Risk assessments

Local authority officers have received training on the carrying out of risk assessments of private water supplies. All supplies that are classed as Type A supplies (ie those that serve any commercial properties or domestic supplies serving more than 50 people) are required to have a risk assessment carried out by the Local Authority, there is a charge for this risk assessment. If you believe an assessment has been carried out on the supply then you should have received a copy, if not please contact us and we will provide you with a copy of the assessment. We will also carry out a free risk assessment of your supply if your supply is a Type B supply (small supplies serving only domestic premises) and you have applied for a grant. 

During a risk assessment the whole supply will be assessed from the source to the taps. Areas of potential contamination will be identified and advice will be given on how to reduce the associated risks. Samples will also be taken to assess the quality of the drinking water, although if you have no treatment on your supply we may not sample for bacteriological contamination as untreated supplies are all recommended to have treatment fitted to remove potential contamination. An information sheet on risk assessments is available here. The visit is likely to take 1 - 4 hours, depending on the complexity of the supply. The process is designed to include all types and sizes of supply, it highlights possible contamination routes and increases awareness of the potential risks and the importance of ongoing maintenance amongst users. The benefits include an impartial investigation of the whole supply and sound advice regarding suitable treatment. A feedback letter and report will detail improvements, if required. This letter will provide the basis for you obtaining quotes from suitable tradesmen to carry out work in your private water supply grant and also give you valuable information on looking after your supply.
For more information regarding private water supplies you can go to the Scottish Government website

You may wish to conduct your own user/owner risk assessment if you are on a domestic supply and guidance is available. Please note these risk assessments are not an alternative to the formal risk assessments of type A supplies that must be carried out by the Local Authority.

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