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Private water supply registration and quality of supply

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland only.

Private water supply registration and testing

You can find more information about private water supplies, the law governing them and how they need to be maintained on the Scottish Government website. There's also specific information about:

  • what to do if you're buying or selling a property with a private water supply
  • how to apply for a local authority grant to improve your private water supply. 

A private water supply has to be registered with the local authority environmental health department. 

The environmental health department has to test the quality of water from a private supply regularly if it:

  • serves over 50 people
  • provides a supply to a domestic setting where there's commercial or public activity, like a holiday let or village hall.

A private water supply is unlikely to have been treated for public consumption in the same way as water provided by Scottish Water.

Relevant people

A 'relevant person' must also be identified, and the local authority can serve a notice to the relevant person if improvement work needs to be carried out. You can read more about relevant people on the Scottish Government website.

In some cases, such as agricultural tenancies, there'll be more than one relevant person. It's recommended that all relevant people work together to agree on what action is needed and how costs should be shared. If you can't agree on who is a relevant person, the local authority will decide.

You can find more information on nominating a relevant person on the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland website.

Categories of private water supply

There are two categories of private water supply: type A and type B. The testing requirements of each are different, and your responsibilities as a private water user are also different.

If you have water from a private supply that is used by just you and your family, testing is likely to be as often as required to make sure the quality is up to the standard set by law. You'll have to request that the supply is tested by the local authority. This is a type B supply (legal note 1).

If you have water from a private supply that provides water for 50 or more people in domestic premises, the supply could be tested as often as every three months if the local authority considers that the source of the water may provide an unpredictable quality. The water has to be of a particular standard before it can be acceptable for drinking. You'll have to share the cost of the fees for testing with other homeowners who get the supply. This is a type A supply (legal note 2).

If you rent a property with a private water supply, it has to be tested regularly to make sure it's good quality. The fees for this should be paid by the owner of the property, but you may want to check if it's included in your rent, as some landlords may try to pass the cost on to the tenant. This may be a matter for negotiation.

Public notices about private water supply

A commercial premises, for example holiday accommodation, or a public site of interest that provides a toilet, must have a notice up if the water is from a private supply (legal note 3). In some cases the water may not be suitable for drinking and you need to be warned about this. Even if it is suitable for drinking, you might decide not to take the risk of drinking untreated water.

If you become ill and you weren't told that the drinking water was from a private water supply, you can take legal action for a personal injury.

Improving your private water supply with a grant from the local authority

Your local authority should have a scheme to give you a grant of up to £800 to improve your private water supply (legal note 4). If a number of households use the supply and you all need some upgrading work to pipes, for example, you could group your separate applications together to try to get more than £800. You should contact your local authority to find out what's happening in your area. There's more detailed information about improving your private water supply on the Scottish Government website.

Interruptions to private water supply

A private water supply can be interrupted by natural events or interference from, for example, a frog blocking the pipe. You should make sure that you check your private water supply regularly. You might find it helpful to read some tips for managing and maintaining a private water supply on the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland website.

If you're struggling to maintain access to running water due to the effects of dry weather spells on your private water supply, you can contact your local authority to find out what support is available. This may take the form of emergency free bottled water for a period of time over the summer. You can find contact details for your local authority on the Scottish Government website.

Exemption from water charges with council tax

If you have a private water supply, you're exempt from paying for water with your council tax.

1 Private Water Supply (Scotland) Regulations 2006

2 Scottish Statutory Instrument no 282/2017

3 Scottish Statutory Instrument no 282/2017

4 Private Water Supplies (Grants) Scotland Regulations 2006, section 47

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