Private Water Supplies in England and Wales

In general terms a private water supply is any water supply which is supplied to a property that is not provided by a water company. About 1% of the population of England and Wales use a private water supply. Most of these supplies are situated in remote, rural parts of the country and can originate from a range of sources including; boreholes, natural springs, and watercourses.

Private water supplies are categorised into three groups:

Regulations governing private water supplies

The European Union Drinking Water Directive (Council Directive 98/83/EC) concerns water intended for human consumption and sets out the standards and requirements for drinking water. This Directive is transposed into National Regulations and enforced in respect of private water supplies in England through the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016 which came into effect on 27 June 2016 and in Wales through the Private Water Supplies (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 which came into effect on 27 June 2016.

The Water Industry Act 1991, the primary national legislation, defines the powers and responsibilities of local authorities in relation to private water supplies and the definition of a relevant person(s).

Role of local authorities in regulating private water supplies

Local authorities act as the regulators for private water supplies and have a number of statutory duties under the Private Water Supplies Regulations. These Regulations place a duty on local authorities to conduct a risk assessment of each private water supply within their area and to undertake monitoring in order to determine compliance with drinking water standards.

The local authority has powers under the Regulations to require that a supply is improved by the relevant person(s) who control the supply. The Regulations also require local authorities to provide private water supply monitoring data to the DWI.

Role of DWI in regulating private water supplies

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) is the competent authority for ensuring the Drinking Water Directive requirements are met in England & Wales. It provides independent reassurance that public water supplies in England & Wales are safe and drinking water quality is acceptable to consumers.

The DWI also has a statutory role to act as technical advisors to local authorities in relation to the implementation of the Private Water Supplies Regulations. This includes the provision of technical and scientific advice on all aspects of drinking water quality, including on private water supplies.


Page reviewed: 31 August 2016
Page modified: 31 August 2016

Drinking Water Inspectorate