Private water supplies, your legal rights and responsibilities

Last Updated: 13 September 2021

If you own a private water supply you'll need to know about the regulations, our rights and responsibilities, your rights and responsibilities and what happens if you get an improvement notice from us.

The Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016, as amended (“the Regulations”), cover all private water supplies and private distribution systems in England. They seek to protect public health by:

  • setting out the drinking water standards which must be adhered to
  • placing a duty on us to determine compliance with these standards
  • categorising private water supplies with different requirements
Supply category and definition
Supply category Definition
Regulation 10, single domestic dwelling A water supply that serves only one private domestic dwelling where no commercial activity takes place.
(Rented properties would not fall into this category because of the commercial use they would be classed as a Regulation 9 Supply).
Regulatiopn 10. small supply A water supply serving less than 50 people; or produces less than 10m³ of water; and is not used for commercial purposes, or for public premises.
Regulation 9, large and/or commercial supply A water supply serving over 50 people; or produces more than 10 m³ per day of water; or is used for commercial purposes, for example, rented properties, holiday lets, a bed & breakfast; or is public premises.

Regulation 8, further distribution supply A water supply that is supplied by a water company and then further distributed by the account holder to a third party, for example, caravan parks.

Who is responsible for your private water supply

The Water Industry Act 1991 refers to the person(s) responsible for a private water supply as the relevant person(s) and is defined as:

  • the owner or occupier of the premises supplied
  • the owner or occupier of the premises where the source of the supply is situated
  • any other person who exercises powers of management or control in relation to that source

Your rights and responsibilities

As a relevant person you are responsible for:

  • ensuring that any structures or equipment relating to your supply is well maintained and that specialist advice is sought out where necessary
  • allowing us to carry out our duties so that we can protect public health
  • complying with or appealing any legal notices served upon you
  • if your supply serves more than 20m3 water per day you'll need to apply for an abstraction license

Our rights and responsibilities

The Water Industry Act 1991 also defines our powers and responsibilities with regards to private water supplies, including:

  • testing (also known as sampling), analysed by a UKAS accredited laboratory which works to internationally agreed standards
  • risk assessing, a collaborative source to tap assessment of all risks present on a private water supply and if necessary measures required to improve it
  • using enforcement powers, when relevant, to restrict or prohibit the use of a supply and to ensure improvement works are done so that the supply meets the requirements of the Regulations
  • the right to recover the costs of our regulatory duties

Improvement Notices

If tests show that a private water supply is dangerous, or if a during a risk assessment we think there is a public health risk, we can serve an improvement notice. You will have to comply with it. We will work with you and offer advice to help you meet the necessary standards.

The notice has to include:

  • the reasons why we are sure that your private water supply isn't, wasn't, or isn't likely to be wholesome or sufficient
  • the steps we consider are needed to make sure your supply is wholesome and sufficient
  • the time period in which the steps have to be carried out

You have the right to appeal for up to 28 days from the date the notice was served. Appeals should be performed in accordance with the regulations.