What is a private water supply?

A private water supply is one which is not provided by a water company. Approximately 1% of the population in England and Wales has a private water supply to their homes. Most private water supplies are in rural locations and are from wells, boreholes, springs or streams. In East Devon there more than 1000 such supplies.

Private water supplies are categorised into four groups:

  1. Single private dwellings.
  2. Small domestic supplies supplying fewer than 50 people.
  3. Large domestic supplies supplying over 50 people or serving commercial premises, including B&B's and holiday lets.
  4. Private distribution systems where mains water is then used to supply a number of properties

What are the implications of the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016?

On 27 June 2016 the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016 replaced the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009, to further safeguard public health by ensuring that supplies are safe to drink. The 2016 Regulations differ in several key areas, including:

  1. They take account of new European requirements, such as the Directive 96/29/Euratom. Local Authorities must now assess the risk from radioactive substances, such as radon, to private water supplies.
  2. Local Authorities are now required to serve notice on single domestic dwellings if there is a risk to health from their private supply.
  3. They ensure that remedial action is taken if the water is unwholesome, even if it is not necessarily a risk to health.
  4. Requirements for new private water supplies have been introduced.

Risk assessments

The regulations require the council to carry out a risk assessment of private water supplies every five years. This involves surveying the supply to identify potential contamination from the source to the consumer's tap.

Possible prevention measures and treatment options are identified as part of a multi-barrier approach to protecting water user’s health. The results of the risk assessment also help to identify which parameters need to be tested when sampling the water supply and act as a reference when determining potential causes of failure.

Sampling requirements

  1. Single Private Dwellings: Single private dwellings will not require routine monitoring or a risk assessment. However, we can sample or risk assess at owner’s request.
  2. Small Domestic Supplies: The amount of monitoring will depend on the outcome of the risk assessment. However, it will be a minimum of once every five years. Supplies will be sampled for five basic parameters and anything else that arises from the risk assessment.
  3. Private Distribution Systems: Monitoring must be carried out according to the outcome of the risk assessment.
  4. Large Supplies or Commercial Premises: Two types of monitoring will occur on these supplies:
  • Check monitoring ensures the wholesomeness of the water, the frequency of check monitoring will depend on the amount of water used
  • Audit monitoring determines whether the water supply meets the relevant standards. The range of tests for audit monitoring is extensive and the amount of monitoring depends on the outcome of the risk assessment

Investigation and action in an event of a failure

All quality failures must be immediately investigated to determine the cause of the failure and whether it was produced by the condition of the distribution system. Remedial action will be required and we will prohibit or restrict the use of water if it could be harmful to health.

The new regulations make it easier and oblige us to take action. If water is unwholesome, but not necessarily a risk to health we can allow the supply holder up to 28 days to rectify the problem, providing informal guidance. If unsuccessful, formal action must be taken.


Although the EC has advised that the requirement for a new authorisation is now unlikely, we can still serve one to allow failed supplies to continue whilst works are carried out to achieve compliance. Any relevant person (owner, user, or other person responsible for a private supply) can apply to the local authority for an authorisation. Authorisations may only be granted for failures that do not constitute a health risk (usually chemical parameters). Before we issue one, we will consult all water users and the Drinking Water Inspectorate and take their views into account. We will inform them of the authorisation and its conditions and provide advice to those that may be at greater risk e.g. parents of babies. We will review authorisations from time to time to ensure sufficient progress is being made towards improvement.


Notices will be served to improve or restrict supplies where there is a risk to health, water is unwholesome or insufficient. Failure to comply with the notices may result in either works in default or prosecution in a Magistrates Court.


Appeals can be made to the Magistrates Court or the Secretary of State depending on which notice is served.

What are the charges?

Sampling programme visits = £80 plus analysis charge

VAT will be added to the £80 if the sample is requested by a customer

Risk Assessment = £300 includes samples but analysis charges not included

Investigations = £100 (remains the same as previous years).

Where an arranged visit cannot be carried out (see below) a charge of £80 will be made:

  • the customer(s) has not attended, or
  • has not arranged a suitable person to attend, or
  • cancellation of the visit is not received within 24 hours prior to the arranged visit

The council has discretion to vary the fee arrangements on a case by case basis, the figures above will be the normal amount charged.

All fees will be reviewed on an annual basis with increases added at the council’s discretion.


Type of Visit EDDC Fee Maximum Fee Set by Regulations
Sampling Visit for Private Water Supply Regulation 2016 purpose (each visit) £80 + cost of sample analysis £100
Sampling Visit for House Sale purpose (each visit) £80 + VAT + cost of sample analysis N/A
Sampling Visit for Farm Assurance purposes (each visit) £80 + VAT + cost of sample analysis N/A
Sampling Visit for any purpose outside of the Private Water Supply Regulation 2016 requirements (each visit) £80 + VAT + cost of sample analysis N/A
Risk Assessment (each visit) £300 + the cost of analysing any samples taken £500
Investigation following failure £100 minimum (to cover administration and travel),
+ £25 per hour spent on site
Granting Authorisations £50 minimum (to cover administration and travel),
+ £25 per hour spent on site