Private Water Supplies

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

Private Water Supplies - Your Property

How to find out if a property is served by a private supply

If you are visiting a commercial property served by a private supply then they are obliged by law to display a Private Water Supply Poster so if you see one the property is serviced by a private supply, however in larger premises these may not always be spotted.

Other signs may include:

  • Lack of smell of chlorine in the water – the mains supply usually has a faint chlorine or bleach like odour. Most private supplies are not chlorinated – although some are.
  • The property is in a remote location, most but not all private supplies are in areas that the public mains don’t reach.
  • The water may appear discoloured especially after heavy rain when viewed through a glass. Many supplied in Argyll are surface derived and subject to variations throughout the season but lack of colour does not always mean a mains supply.

If you are unsure and want to know about a properties supply and if it may be a private one first of all ask the owner or member of staff who should be aware of where the water in the premises comes from.

If you have any concerns regarding the supply of water, further information on it, contact the owner in the first instance, further advice for visitors and users is available here

Staying at a property with a private supply - What does it mean/what should you do about it?

If the premises you are staying in or are planning to visit has a private water supply then it will not have come from a statutory water undertaker such as a Water Company (in Scotland this would be Scottish Water). This is likely to mean that the treatment the water has undergone will be different to that of the water you probably drink or use at home. Most mains water, i.e. the water that most people in Scotland have supplied to their properties by Scottish Water, is treated by the addition of chlorine to kill potentially harmful bacteria; private water supplies are not usually treated in this way. Treatment of private water supplies is usually the responsibility of the owner of the supply or property, the most common method in Argyll is pre-filtered ultraviolet disinfection. Commercial properties on a supply, including self-catering accommodation will mean that the supply must legally have a formal risk assessment carried out on it and also is subject to routine sampling to verify compliance with required drinking water standards, a drinking water poster must also be displayed at the property. This should alert you to the fact that the supply is a private one and you may need to consider whether you need to take additional precautions to protect your health or the health of your family. You may also wish to refer to question  15 “How might I know that a property is served by a private water supply.

If you are visiting a property with a private supply you may wish to speak to the owner and find out if the supply is treated, and sampled regularly – all private supplies must be sampled at least annually if they serve a commercial premise, we would always suggest a supply is treated, whatever its sample results.

  • Advice to visitors and users at particular risk is available here.
  • If after speaking to the owner or his/her agent you still have concerns about the drinking water quality  then please contact the local environmental health office

Buying/selling a property with a private water supply – What to consider

Many properties in Argyll and Bute are served by a private water supply, often as they have no access to a mains supply of water as provided by Scottish Water. When you are considering buying a property your solicitor may discover it is on a private supply, if this is the case we would recommend you follow the advice below .We would also recommend that sellers of property on a private supply ensure they have the following advice to provide to prospective buyers and assist them in their decision to go ahead with the purchase.  

Things to consider:

Is the water supply registered with the Local Authority  and has the supply ever undergone a formal risk assessment, if so will the owners provide you with a copy (if they have lost it they can contact us for a copy). Have the owners or previous owners already had a private water supply grant, if not you will probably be eligible for a non –means tested grant

i)  Where does the water come from?

  • Find out as much as possible about the source of the water supply, such as the type of source (e.g. borehole, spring, open supply such as a burn), its location and the owner of the land. Also, try to find out about the nature and location of any associated pipework, tanks etc.
  • Find out who, if anyone looks after the supply. This might be the landowner or a member of the local community, a neighbour who shares the supply or may be the householders own responsibility.
  • Will you be charged for the water?
  • Is there a central treatment plant on the supply?
  • Is there any information regarding the quality or quantity of water to be supplied in the deeds of the property?
  • Are there times when water is scarce, or the supply dries up altogether? If the owners of the property you are considering purchasing have not been resident there for very long consider speaking to longer term users of the supply.

ii)  What happens to the water at the property?

  • Find out as much as you can about any pumps and treatment systems? Are there instruction books, maintenance schedules and contacts for parts?
  • Has any treatment or associated equipment been regularly maintained and records kept?
  • Ensure there is enough room around any treatment to allow for maintenance, for example replacement of Ultra Violet system bulbs and sleeve cleaning can be very awkward if the design has not been well thought out.
  • Ensure that treatment is ‘point of entry’ rather than ‘point of use’. It is not sufficient to have only one tap within a property which is safe to drink, or use for washing purposes.
  • Find  out if the supply has had any samples taken and what the results of these were, be aware that certain parameters may not have health effects but could affect the efficiency of treatment that may have been installed.
  • Grants may be available to help upgrade the water supply, please contact us for information.

We welcome requests for further information or to discuss a specific supply; please do not hesitate to contact us.

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