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Private Water Supplies in Scotland

Water DropAround 150,000 people in Scotland rely on a private water supply - any water supply not provided by Scottish Water - for their drinking water. Instead of Scottish Water, the owner or person who uses the supply is responsible for its maintenance. Supplies vary in size from those that serve one household to those that serve hundreds of people. Tens of thousand of people also use them occasionally each year, typically when they are on holiday. The quality of water from private supplies is highly variable and when poor can cause significant health problems.

The sources of private water supplies also vary, including surface water such as streams and rivers as well as private impoundment reservoirs, and groundwater such as wells and boreholes or springs where groundwater issues naturally at the surface from an aquifer.

Private water supplies are regulated by the Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006 ("the 2006 Regulations") which transpose the revised European Drinking Water Directive (Council Directive 98/83/EC), and update earlier Regulations. Their overriding objective is to ensure the provision of clean and wholesome drinking water and deliver significant health benefits to those using such supplies. The 2006 Regulations, which came into force on 3 July 2006, incorporate the latest advances to improve drinking water quality including the use of risk assessments from 'source to tap' as part of an effective drinking water surveillance programme.

The primary legislation pertaining to water supplies in Scotland is the Water (Scotland) Act 1980. Under the Act, each dwelling requires to be supplied by an adequate and wholesome water supply. If an unsatisfactory supply is identified, the local authority has powers to serve a notice requiring improvements to be carried out.


Grant Scheme

As well as the strengthened Regulations the Scottish Government has introduced a Grant Scheme to assist users improve their private supplies. Grants of up to £800 are available from your local authority provided certain qualifying conditions are met. Your local authority can provide further information and advice about the Grant Scheme. A list of contact details for local authorities may be found on the DWQR website.


Relevant Legislation

The Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006


The Private Water Supplies (Notices) (Scotland) Regulations 2006


The Private WaterSupplies (Grants) (Scotland) Regulations 2006



Additional Information

Information packs for owners and users of private supplies are available to support the introduction of the strengthened Regulations, which include simple measures people can take to reduce risks from their supply. This information is available from the Environmental Health Department of their local authority.

Further information on the 2006 Regulations and information for owners and users is available on the DWQR website.


Related Links

Drinking Water Quality Regulator - monitors and enforces drinking water quality standards in Scotland in respect of the public water supply.

Health Protection Scotland - source of expert advice on health protection issues.

Health Scotland - provides national focus for improving health including collation and analysis and dissemination of health related information.

Scottish Environment Protection Agency - responsibilities in relation to the protection of the wider water environment including surface water and groundwater.

Water Regulations Advisory Service - promotes knowledge of water regulations throughout the UK.

World Health Organisation Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality - source of information on water quality and health and on effective management programmes for private water supplies.

WRAS Water Fittings and Materials Directory - This directory is very useful to anyone who designs, specifies or installs plumbing systems as it lists products which have WRAS approval.