Private Water Supplies

A private water supply is one which is not from a “mains” source, such as a:

  • well
  • borehole
  • spring
  • stream
  • river
  • lake or pond

As East Cambridgeshire is a relatively rural district we do have a number of properties that are not supplied by mains water from the water companies. There are presently about 50 such private water supplies in the District.

Safe drinking water is essential to good health. Consequently, private water supplies must be properly protected and treated to prevent contamination by:

  • micro-organisms - The most common source is from animal waste where water is drawn from farmed land, or where manure is spread, especially at times of heavy rainfall. Discharges from cesspits or septic tanks may also cause contamination
  • chemicals - for example, nitrates, pesticides and chemicals from some industrial or commercial processes may affect private water supplies. Water with high nitrate levels is particularly unsuitable for bottle-fed babies.
  • other substances such as lead - If your water supply passes through a lead tank or pipes, it is likely that some lead will dissolve into the water. This is particularly harmful to young children, so pipes and tank may need to be replaced

Contamination, for example by micro-organisms, may not be obvious, since it may not show by smell, taste or colour of the water. While the majority of micro-organisms are harmless some cause serious illness. All those who drink contaminated water are at risk of infection. The risk is likely to be greater for those who do not drink the water regularly, or for those with lower immune systems such as the elderly or very young.

A private water supply may serve just one property or several properties through a network of pipes. It also includes a supply provided for the purpose of bottling of water.

No water rates are paid, but the person who owns the supply may charge the users. The owner or the person who uses the supply is responsible for repairing and maintaining it.

Standards for Water Quality

To ensure that all the water we use is safe, there are Government Standards, which must be met.

These also apply to private water supplies and new Regulations on Private Water Supplies in England and Wales were introduced early in 2010. An update of the Regulations occurred in 2016 and can be viewed here