Higher standards for private water supplies

August 19, 2008 at 2:12 am

One third of a million people in England are set to see the quality of their water supply improve.

Earlier this month, Defra published a consultation on new standards and monitoring requirements for water from wells and boreholes – rather than from the public mains – supplying households and businesses throughout England.

Although most of the 42,000 private water sources in the UK serve individual dwellings, there are also businesses that rely on these supplies, including breweries, food manufacturers and guesthouses. It is extremely important, therefore, that water from private supplies is clean and free from contamination by chemicals and micro-organisms, since this could potentially affect the health of large numbers of customers and visitors.

The quality of tap water in England is generally excellent -in fact, it’s some of the best in the world – but the quality of private supplies is much more variable and, when poor, can cause significant health problems.

Launching the consultation on 11 August, Defra Minister Phil Woolas said, “Typically around 50 per cent of private supplies meet the standards. These proposals will help to ensure that water from private supplies is clean and safe, and that people can consume it with confidence and without risk to their health.”

Whilst the regulations will continue to be implemented by local councils, a new system of risk assessment will be introduced, based on the World Health Organisation’s Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality published in 2004.

In Scotland, residents have been enjoying the benefits of the new regulations since July 2006, and the Scottish Executive has also introduced a Grant Scheme to help users improve their private supplies. Grants of up to £800 are available from local councils, provided certain qualifying conditions are met.

If you get your drinking water from a private supply in England, you can comment on the proposals until 3 November by visiting the Defra website.

London came out top, but not really by a huge margin. The worse surveyed region was the Northern area but this only dropped to 99.94%, which many might not regard as a worrying figure for last place. With a national average of 99.96%, a chief inspector of drinking water feels this figure has remained pretty much the same over the last few years and could be improved upon. The more demand for it though, the better the quality will be.

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