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. This may come from a loch, burn, spring, well, river, pond, borehole 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 1600 private water supplies serving over 4000 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 run-off from fields or deterioration of distribution pipe work.
Private Water Supply Registration
All private water supplies must be registered with the Council. We are currently updating our existing register and are writing out to all properties believed to be on a private supply to ask them to update the information we hold.
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 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
- Type A - Supplies serving 50 or more persons, or supplies to commercial or public activities irrespective of size, or
- Type B - Supplies serving only domestic premises with less than 50 persons supplied.
Type A 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. 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. The information gathered is made available in the form of a Public Register of Private Supplies.
Type B supplies are required to comply with a limited range of parameters that are defined in the regulations and will not form part of a statutory sampling programme.
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 ensure the quality is satisfactory. 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 property, food businesses, factories, sports centres, hotels, B&Bs, schools and campsites. A register of supplies and sample results is held by Environmental Health. The cost of such sampling is borne by owners of 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.
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 Notice to notify all users. This includes all holiday letting premises and self catering units/caravans. You 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.