Drinking water quality in Scotland 2017 – Private Water Supplies

Issued on behalf of Scotland's Drinking Water Quality Regulator.

Private water supplies are those owned and managed by individuals rather than Scottish Water.  Many of these supplies comply with drinking water standards but a significant number need to make further improvements, according to the latest report from Scotland’s Drinking Water Quality Regulator (DWQR).
Around 3.6 per cent of the Scottish population receive their water from a private water supply rather than from Scottish Water. Some of these supplies serve hotels, tourist accommodation and other businesses. Where water from these supplies does not meet the standards, there may be a risk to the health of those drinking from them.
In 2017, a total of 46,470 tests were taken from regulated private water supplies – those serving more than 50 people or a commercial activity. Of these, 95 per cent met the required standard. Of the samples taken from regulated supplies for E. coli, which can cause illness, 11% did not comply with the standard last year. This indicates that they are not receiving the treatment necessary to make the water safe. The figure has not changed for the past three years, suggesting that limited progress has been made, in spite of efforts by local authorities.
Sue Petch the Drinking Water Quality Regulator said:
“I am concerned with the poor quality of private water supplies, particularly the number that tested positive for E. coli and the health risks that its presence indicates. There is much that people responsible for a private water supply can do to protect water sources and ensure that there is an appropriate and robust treatment process in place together with a plan to ensure that this continues to be the case under all circumstances.
Information for private water supply owners is available from local authorities and the Scottish Government including a grant towards the cost of improvements. I urge people to make full use of this support in order to improve their supply”
A full copy of Drinking Water Quality in Scotland – Private Water Supplies 2017 is available at www.dwqr.scot
• Private Water Supplies are regulated by local authorities – DWQR has a role to supervise this and provide support and advice.
• The DWQR is independent of Scottish Ministers and exists to enforce the drinking water quality regulations and ensure that drinking water quality in Scotland is of the highest possible standard.  DWQR reviews water quality data from samples taken by Scottish Water and undertakes targeted audits examining all aspects of its operations. An annual report is presented to Scottish Ministers detailing the assessment of drinking water quality during the previous year for both public and private water supplies.
• It is estimated that around 200,000 people rely on a private water supply for their drinking water, with many thousands more using them occasionally, typically in holiday accommodation.  Regulated (formerly known as Type A) private water supplies provide more than 10 cubic metres per day, serve greater than 50 people or a commercial or public activity. Regulated supplies must be risk assessed and sampled by the local authority.  Smaller, exempt (formerly Type B) supplies typically serve one or two private dwellings and are sampled at the request of the owner or user.
• Some of these supplies have limited or no treatment. The main risk to health comes from microorganisms, including E. coli. The regulations governing the quality of regulated private water supplies are the Water Intended for Human Consumption (Private Supplies)(Scotland) Regulations 2017. These regulations came into force in October 2017.
• Various treatment options are available for private water supplies. Disinfection often uses ultra-violet light, which can be relatively simple to install and maintain, but may require pre-filtration to remove substances such as iron, manganese and natural colour in the water. All treatment processes require some maintenance and specialist advice may need to be sought.
• The Scottish Government has introduced a new private water supply hub to enable owners and users to access clear and simple information to help them manage their supply.
• A Scottish Government non-means tested grant of £800 per property is available for improving private water supplies. This may be accessed, along with advice on improving a private water supply, by contacting the environmental health department of the relevant local authority


Media enquiries

Back to top