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boy drinking waterThe key legislation concerning drinking water quality in Scotland is:

The Water (Scotland) Act 1980

  • Water authorities must supply wholesome water for domestic purposes. It is a criminal offence to supply water unfit for human consumption;
  • Scottish Ministers must take enforcement action against a water authority that fails in its duty to supply wholesome water unless the failure is trivial or the water authority is complying with a legally binding undertaking to remedy the matter;
  • Local authorities must take appropriate steps to keep themselves informed about the wholesomeness of public and private water supplies in their area and notify the water authority if not satisfied;
  • Local authorities are required to secure improvements to private water supplies if they consider them necessary; and
  • Wholesomeness is defined for public supplies in The Public Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2014 and for private supplies in the Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006.


The Public Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2014


  • Define wholesomeness by setting standards for around 50 drinking water quality parameters;
  • Set and define, the water supply zone as the basic unit for drinking water quality monitoring;
  • Require water authorities to monitor the quality of their supplies;
  • Specify detailed sampling requirements for samples taken at taps within zones, at service reservoirs and at water treatment works;
  • Make provision whereby, authorised departures may be issued from the prescribed standards where the water is not of the required quality. However, authorised departures may not be issued if there is any risk to public health. Authorised departures will not normally be issued for more than three years and any authorised departure must be accompanied by an improvement programme; and
  • Require water authorities to publish an annual report and keep a public register of water quality in their area.


The Public and Private Water Supplies (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2015


  • Amend the Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006 and the Public Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2014 to implement European Council Directive 2013/51/Euratom laying down requirements for the protection of the health of the general public with regard to radioactive substances in water intended for human consumption, in particular by the inclusion of an indicator parameter for radon with a threshold set at 100 Bq/l.
  • Further amend the 2006 Private Water Supplies Regulations making provision regarding the application and introduction of substances and products into private water supplies and make some adjustments to the parameters in Schedule 1 of the 2006 Regulations.


The Water Industry (Scotland) Act 2002

  • Created the post of Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland (DWQR);
  • DWQR is responsible for enforcing The Public Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2014;
  • DWQR is independent of Ministers;
  • DWQR has the powers to obtain information, power of entry or inspection and power of enforcement; and
  • DWQR also has emergency powers to require water supplier to carry out works to ensure quality of water supplied is safe for public consumption.


The Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006


  • Define wholesomeness in the same manner and prescribe the same standards as for public supplies
  • Require local authorities to classify private supplies according to size and use
  • Require local authorities to monitor private supplies in their area according to classification
  • Require local authorities to secure improvements to private supplies if necessary.


EU Drinking Water Directive

The drinking water quality standards in Scotland largely stem from a European Directive. On December 5, 1998, Directive (98/83/EC) was published in the 'Official Journal of the European Communities'. This was a revision of the original Drinking Water Directive which was published on July 15, 1980 (80/778/EEC). Member States of the European Union were given five years to meet the standards set in the revised Directive. Exceptions to this timescale are the final standards for trihalomethanes (8 years) and lead (15 years). Scotland and the rest of the UK implemented the 1998 Directive by December 2003 as required by the EC.

Council Directive 98/83/EC (Quality of water intended for human consumption)