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Private water supply

If you do not have Public Mains (Scottish Water) coming to your property you will be served by a Private Water Supply, this will be water from a borehole, spring, well, burn or loch.

The way we are required to regulate private water supplies is changing. We will need to monitor all water supplies which serve the following types of properties:

  • Rented Properties
  • Tied Properties (where a house goes along with a job)
  • Self Catering holiday properties
  • Properties used for making or serving food
  • Hotel
  • Village Halls
  • Schools
  • Residential facilities such as care homes and outdoor centres
  • Workplaces

The new regulations are called the 'Water Intended for Human Consumption (Private Supplies) (Scotland) Regulations 2017' and they came into force on 27/10/2017. These Regulated supplies require to be risk assessed once every 5 years and sampled annually. We charge for this work and you can find our current charges by following the link under 'downloads' at the top of this page.

Small domestic water supplies, where all the properties are owner occupied, are exempt from these new regulations. Existing legislation allows sampling, risk assessments and grant assistance to upgrade the water quality of these supplies. If you are unclear which category you are in please contact us to discuss this.

Private water supplies are, by their nature, very vulnerable to contamination that may cause waterborne infections or other ill effects.

Lead in water (public or private supplies)

In Scotland, lead does not occur naturally in significant concentrations in our water supplies. The problem arises when drinking water comes into contact with lead supply pipes, lead tanks, lead solder joints on copper pipes, or inferior quality brass fittings and taps, particularly for longer periods (e.g. overnight / weekends / holidays periods). This can result in high lead levels in the drinking water supply. 

If you suspect you may have lead pipes, the Council encourages you to undertake further works with a view to establishing whether lead is present and in the short-term to implement precautionary measures to protect your health but in the longer term to take steps to replace materials containing lead.

Information on the health effects of exposure to lead can be found on the NHS Inform website.

Frequently asked questions

Is there any grant funding available to help me improve my private water supply?

Yes, applications can be made by owner occupiers, landlords or tenants. Grants of up to £800 per property are available without means testing. In some circumstances additional funding may also be available.

We cannot issue grants retrospectively for works which are already started or completed or to allow users to connect to the public mains water supply.

Grants are not available for new build properties.

For further information and an application form, see Water supply improvement grants.

What is the first step in claiming grant assistance?

The first step is to have a risk assessment conducted of your water supply by a member of the Service's Water Team. Group applications between neighbours are encouraged, but individual properties may also apply.

What type of water sampling is carried out and why?

Water sampling is carried out to determine the presence of bacterial and/or chemical contaminants which may have adverse health implications.

The frequency of sampling and different bacteria and chemicals tested for are determined by the size of the supply and type properties using the water. For example a large supply which includes commercial businesses such as hotels or caterers will be sampled more frequently for a range of parameters compared to a smaller domestic supply.

I have not been feeling well, what illnesses are associated with private water supplies?

Private water supplies can pose a threat to health unless the water is properly protected and treated. You may not be able to tell whether your water is safe as contaminated water may smell, taste and look normal.

Water borne infections such as Campylobacter, E.coli (O157), Carpospores and Guardia can produce acute gastrointestinal symptoms whilst chemical contaminants are more likely to lead to chronic health effects.

If you think your water supply may be affecting your health contact your GP. They can provide containers to enable you to hand in a stool sample for analysis. Also contact our water team and we can arrange to take a sample as soon as possible.

Can you test for lead content?

Yes, if you require water testing for lead please contact us. Ingestion of water with high lead levels may affect neurological development in infants and boiling the water will not reduce lead levels. The normal solution is to remove lead pipe work or install special filters

For public mains water you should approach your licensed provider e.g. Scottish Water.

Can you check mains water?

'Mains water' is provided by a licensed water authority, such as Scottish Water.
For most problems involving the Public Mains you should approach your licensed water provider e.g. Scottish Water on 0800 0778 778 or visit the Scottish water website.

How long do I have to wait for results?

The first bacteriological results are normally known within 48 hours however full chemical samples can take up to 3 weeks from the date of submission to the Service's Analyst.

Why has my water failed and what do I do next?

Failures can occur for numerous reasons: bacteriological and/or chemical. The absence of treatment will provide no protection to water users.  Even having treatment (e.g. filters, Ultraviolet disinfection, and chlorination) is no guarantee of safe water unless it is designed to cope with the raw water quality and flow rate at your property. Water treatment systems must also be carefully and regularly maintained.

This Service can carry out a risk assessment of the supply and produce a report of Approved Improvement Works. There are also non-means tested grants of up to £800 per property available to assist with the cost of improvement works to your supply.

Where you are responsible for other properties (e.g. tenants, holiday visitors) you must inform the water users about the sample failure(s) and ensure temporary measures are put into action.

What are the implications of a chemical failure?

Failure of certain chemical parameters may mean that there may be a risk to human health, and may also affect the efficiency of any treatment system.

Should you wish to discuss a failure, organise a risk assessment visit or access grant money please contact us.

I have one tap fitted with treatment which provides safe drinking water, is this sufficient?

No, any treatment should be 'point of entry', designed to treat all of the water entering the property. All water used on the premises must be safe for drinking and hygiene purposes, such as showering and tooth brushing. 'Point of use' treatment e.g. applied to only one tap is no longer acceptable. There are non-means tested grants of up to £800 per property available to assist with the cost of improving your supply.

I have existing treatment and have never maintained it, do I need to?

Yes - Your water treatment system needs regular maintenance. We recommend you follow the manufacturer's instructions and bear in mind that the maintenance frequency will need to be increased during prolonged periods of heavy rainfall.

Please refer to the Guidance on Treatment Maintenance (PDF) [66KB] .

Do you have a list of plumbers / treatment suppliers who can help me?

Please refer to our Useful contacts, list of plumbers and treatment providers (Word doc) [176KB]  .

I have/ wish to start up a food business on a private water supply.  Are there any implications?

It is recognised that a significant number of food businesses such as hotels and guest houses utilise private water supplies. The safety of any private water supply could have a direct bearing on the safety of the food provided for consumption and is therefore deemed a critical area of the operations. Failure therefore to assure a consistent safe supply of water could potentially pose a risk to health not only via consumption, but indirectly via contaminated food stuffs.

In view of the potential risks associated with the use of a private water supply any documented food safety management system should include the necessary control measures, monitoring procedures, contingency plans etc. Example procedures are available from the Food Safety Team who can also be contacted on the same number.

If you operate a food business on a private water supply the supply is likely to be deemed a Regulated supply. Regulated supplies require to be risk assessed once every 5 years and sampled annually. We charge for this work and you can find our current charges by following the link at the top of this page.

I am buying /selling a property with a private water supply, should I get the water tested?

Yes, if you are buying or selling a property on a private water supply the water should be sampled for wholesomeness in terms of both bacteriological and chemical parameters. Conveyance solicitors usually need to see a water analyses report dated within 6 months of your date of entry. The Environment Service will normally be able to sample and advise on results. Please allow at least 4 weeks from contacting us until you receive any test results. There will be a charge for this service which is outlined in our Private Water Supply Charges document which is located in the 'Downloads' section.

The information letter (PDF) [107KB] provides details of how we can assist you with our sampling service.

There is a lot to consider when you are buying a property on a private water supply and you should consider the questions in the attached checklist (PDF) [119KB] .

Last modified on 23 August 2023

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