The 2018 Annual Reports for Private Water Supplies has been published by Scotland’s Drinking Water Quality Regulator.

In 2018, a total of 42,440 tests were taken from regulated private water supplies (PWS) which are those supplying more than 50 people or a commercial activity. 

93.5 per cent of tests met the required standard, but 11% of these supplies had a sample that contained E.coli.

Compliance figures have not changed significantly for the past three years, suggesting that limited improvements are been made, in spite of efforts by local authorities and the existence of a Scottish Government grant.

Private water supplies were also affected by the very dry weather in 2018 and local authorities reported that the owners of some 500 supplies contacted them for emergency assistance when their supplies ran dry.

Private water supplies are those owned and managed by individuals rather than Scottish Water and around 3.6 per cent of the Scottish population receive their water from them.

PWS regulations are enforced by Environmental Health teams at local authorities. The regulations were revised in October 2017, bringing into force The Water Intended for Human Consumption (Private Supplies) (Scotland) Regulations 2017. These cover large domestic or commercial supplies. Smaller household PWS (referred to as Type B supplies) continue to be governed by The Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006. 

According to the latest report from Scotland’s Drinking Water Quality Regulator (DWQR), a significant number do not meet the required drinking water standards and need to make improvements.

In 2018, 16 Enforcement Notices were served by local authorities across Scotland. This an encouraging upturn on previous years, but more needs to be done given the number of failing supplies. Although responsibility for private supplies rests with owners and users, local authorities are urged to continue to provide appropriate advice and DWQR expects them to make full use of the enforcement powers available to tackle and deliver improvements. 

Sue Petch, Drinking Water Quality Regulator, said:

“I am concerned with the poor quality of some of the private water supplies in Scotland, particularly those that tested positive for E. coli. It is very important that these supplies are improved so that people using them have a safe and reliable supply of drinking water.

“Advice and information is available from local authorities who also provide a grant which can help towards the costs of improvement.”

The Scottish Government has introduced a 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.