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Private water supplies

COVID-19 and Private Water Supplies

The current Government legislation restricts movement in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). In order to comply with that Government advice, Wiltshire Council has decided to postpone sampling and risk assessment visits until the guidance changes.  We will look to reschedule any outstanding samples and risk assessments to later in the calendar year depending on developments going forward.

The advice from the Drinking Water Inspectorate (dwi) is as follows:

It is recommended that in the absence of any monitoring, consumers and other relevant persons of private water supplies should be encouraged to bolster their operational checks and ensure that maintenance is being carried out as required (e.g. replacing UV lamps or monitoring chlorine dose) and that they have sufficient spares of essential equipment to ensure supplies remain wholesome at all times. They should document these actions, and if required present these to Local Authorities to confirm that supplies did not present a risk to health during these exceptional circumstances.

World Health Organisation guidance indicates the risk of contracting Covid-19 from drinking water is low. However, the virus may survive in faecally contaminated water for weeks. This reinforces the importance of protecting the source of your water supply. This involves effectively maintaining and monitoring the infrastructure, and any treatment. Further details can be found on the dwi website.

We are working to develop a form of online risk assessment to enable for this process to continue during these times.

If you have any concerns regarding the safety of your private water supply, please contact the Environment Control and Protection Team on 01722 438185, or email  publicprotectionwest@wiltshire.gov.uk.

Private water supply information

A private water supply is any supply of water, intended for human consumption, which is not provided by a water company such as Wessex Water, Thames Water or Southern Water. There are around 650 registered private water supplies in Wiltshire.

A private water supply may serve just one property or several properties through a network of pipes and will generally supply water which has been taken from a borehole, well or spring.Private water supplies may also take water from a stream, river, lake or pond. However tis is not recommended as the quality of these water sources if more difficult to control and they are more vulnerable to contamination. All private water supplies within Wiltshire must be registered with Wiltshire Council.

Private water supplies are regulated by the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016 as amended by The Private Water Supplies (England) (Amendement) Regulations 2018.

At Wiltshire Council the Environmental Protection Team is responsible for implementing these regulations.

A Safer Water Pack is available to help you comply with the requirements and protect the health of the people who use private water supplies. 

The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016 (as amended) regulate all private water supplies and private distributions systems. The regulations aim to protect the health of people consuming water from the supply.

The regulations require that private water supplies meet the same standards as water from a mains water supply.

With the exception of private water supplies to single domestic dwellings the regulations require that the Council risk assesses each supply every five years and carry out periodic sampling of the water to assess its microbiological and chemical quality.

Wiltshire Council must complete a risk assessment and sample a private wtaer supply as soon as possible after we become aware of it. A private water supply must not be bought into use until the Council is satisfied the water does not constitue a potential danger to human health.


Volume m3/day


Sampling cost Risk assessment Investigations
Single domestic

Standard Suite £17.05 (excluding nitrate)

£110 £160 £135
Domestic <10

Standard Suite (excluding nitrate)

£110 £300 or £210 where a safer water pack has been completed £135
Commercial <10

£88.05 Standard Suite

£115 £300 or £210 where a safer water pack has been completed £135
10 to 100m3 /day

£88.05 Standard Suite

£130 £400 or £300 where a safer water pack has been completed £160
100 to 1000m3/day

£88.05 Standard Suite

£130 £450 or £350 where a safer water pack has been completed £220
Private water distribution network


N/A £450 or £350 where a safer water pack has been completed n/a
 Light touch Risk assessment       £90  
 Purchase of Safer Water Publication      £105  

 * Analysis costs: The charge for analysis of a small residential supply will usually be between £17 and £25.

The charge for analysis of a commercial supply will usually be between £88 and £200. However the cost analysis of either classification can be as as high as £500 depending on the findings of the risk assessment. 



If the water quality of a water supply fails to meet the requirements of the Regulations an investigation will take place to establish the cause of the failure. We will work with the person responsible for the supply to try to identify the source of the problem and discuss the options for improvement.

These improvements may include things like:
• fencing off certain elements of the supply to stop animals entering and contaminating the supply
• creating exclusion zones for the spreading of fertilizers or pesticides
• Carrying out works to the borehole /well headworks to prevent contamination of the supply
• improvement of the water storage tanks/reservoirs
• replacement of pipework

In some circumstances it may prove necessary to install some kind of water treatment to kill harmful micro-organisms or to remove or lower the level of a particular substance.
Examples of water treatment include:
• ultra-violet filters or chlorination  to kill  harmful micro-organisms
• reverse osmosis filters to remove aluminum or nitrate
• iron or manganese filters


You, your family and visitors to your home or business all have a right to expect clean, safe drinking water. Private water supplies can pose a threat to health unless they are properly protected and treated. Contamination may not be detectable by smell, taste or colour so you may not be able to tell if the water is safe.

If certain types of micro-organisms are present in your drinking water then these will pose an immediate risk to your health and the health of your family or visitors. Certain micro-organisms can cause short term health effects, including severe sickness and diarrhoea, and can also cause serious long-term illness, such as kidney failure, long after the immediate effects have passed. In some unfortunate cases the presence of such organisms in drinking water has resulted in death.

The presence of some chemicals in drinking water may lead to an increased risk of poisoning or developing certain diseases if the water is consumed over a long period of time. Other chemicals may make the water look or taste unpleasant while some can cause clothes to be badly stained when they are washed.
Those at greatest risk of waterborne illness and disease are infants, young children, the elderly and the immunosuppressed.

Users and owners of private water supplies are advised to inform Wiltshire Council of any such supplies in use, especially those where the water is being consumed for domestic purposes or where they are used as part of a commercial or public activity. This is to ensure that the council is able to discharge its regulatory duties in the interests of the provision of public health protection. Close

If you wish to abstract water from a river, stream, reservoir, lake, pond, canal, spring or underground water source you may need an abstraction license from the Environment Agency. The requirement to hold an abstraction license is dependent on the volume of water you wish to abstract. For further information or to apply for an abstraction license please contact the Environment Agency on 08708 506506.


Risk assessments will involve looking at the whole supply system from the water source to the tap at which the water is used. The risk assessment will identify the risks to the quality of the water including those risks from, among other things, livestock, wildlife, agricultural activities, sewage storage or treatment within the area, topography, water treatment and the condition of the supply infrastructure including storage tanks, reservoirs and pipe work.

Wiltshire Council has devised a safer water pack which allows a Water Operator to do a self-assessment. If this document is completed prior to a site risk assessment visit the cost of that risk assessment is greatly reduced.


The frequency at which sampling will take place and the microbiological and chemical parameters for which the water will be analysed will be determined by the volume of water supplied, whether the water is used for a commercial activity or public premises and the results of the risk assessment.

With respect to private water supplies to a single dwelling the Council must risk assess the supply and sample the water supplied if requested by the owner or occupier of that dwelling.


If necessary we may serve a legal notice on the appropriate responsible person to require them to take the necessary steps to address the failure and to make sure that the quality of the water provided meets the required standard.  Failure to comply with a notice could mean action through the courts. Enforcement will be carried out in accordance with Public Protections Enforcement Policy.

If water quality from a private supply fails to meet the requirements of the Regulations this may lead to risk assessment and water sampling occurring at an increased frequency.


The regulations also apply to some situations where a public supply is further distributed from a water company customer to other consumers occupying separate land, who are not on a water company billing list.  

The Council must risk assess private distribution networks every five years. The sampling and analysis of the water supplied will be carried out on the basis of the risk assessment.  Under these Regulations the Council will charge for the work it undertakes.


Most people within Wiltshire are supplied with drinking water from mains supply called a 'Public Water Supply'. Public water supplies are those supplies which are provided by a water company such as Wessex Water , Thames Water or Southern Water.

Wiltshire Council is not responsible for sampling and assessing the quality of water from public water supplies. If you are supplied by a public water supply and have a question about or are concerned about the quality of the water you are receiving you should contact the water company which provides your water supply.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate oversees the quality of public water supplies. The Drinking Water Inspectorate can be contacted on 030 0068 6400 or through their website.


Details of how you manage the water supply at an event should be contained within the Event Management Plan.
Water points must have clear access, be clearly marked, be lit at night and have self closing taps.  The ground around the water point should be well drained.  If it’s not, you will need to take steps to deal with ground saturation.

As a general rule, you will need one water point per 3,000 visitors and one water point per 10 caterers.
If you are using an existing water supply, you will need to make sure it is suitable for human consumption.  Just because there’s a tap doesn’t necessarily mean that the water is safe.

Ideally the water for your event should be provided by mains-piped supply.  If this isn’t possible, you can use clean, properly maintained portable water tanks instead.

Drinking water is especially important at outdoor events where people can easily become dehydrated, but all events need to provide access to adequate supplies of clean water.


If you are concerned about the water quality of a river or stream, or if you require information regarding flooding, please contact your local Environment Agency office on 03708 506506.

Should you wish to report a water pollution incident or potential pollution issue, please contact the Environment Agency on 0800 807060.


Any incidents concerning the canal should be referred to British Waterways or on their incident line 01380 722859.


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Last updated: 22 May 2020 | Last reviewed: 22 May 2020