Private Water Supplies More Likely to Fail Water Quality Tests

Private water supplies in Northern Ireland are more likely to fail stringent water quality tests than public supplies, warns the UK plumber approval body WaterSafe.

WaterSafe is highlighting this risk as figures from the Drinking Water Inspectorate show a small percentage of tests on privately owned and operated water networks failed to meet drinking water quality standards in the latest published results.

The failure rate is higher than that ofthe public water supplied by Northern Ireland Water, where 99.94 per cent of samples reached the very high-quality standards expected.

Only one percent of the population in Northern Ireland receive water from a private supply.

However, many of the properties supplied this way are farms and agricultural businesses producing food and drink, as well as hotels, restaurants and public buildings such as hospitals, schools and care homes, so it’s vital supplies are as safe as they can possibly be.

These findings have prompted WaterSafe and the Drinking Water Inspectorate to urge private water supply owners and operators not to take any chances when it comes to protecting their networks – and customers – from potential contamination.

The failures were mainly because of the water source not being protected from contamination, such as animal waste, insufficient treatment of the water or issues with the plumbing systems.

Julie Spinks, Director of WaterSafe, said: “It’s important to understand that the same standards apply to private water supplies as to public supplies to keep them healthy and avoid the risk of contamination right up to the tap.

“Our message to those who own and operate private water supplies is very simple – always be sure to employ a qualified plumber, such as WaterSafe approved, as they have been trained to comply with the requirements of the water fittings regulations.”

In Northern Ireland the Drinking Water Inspectorate is responsible for regulating public and private water supplies. It provides training to Environmental Health Departments in local councils who undertake sampling and risk assessments of private water supplies on their behalf.

Catriona Davis, The Chief Inspector of Drinking Water for Northern Ireland, said: “While all water supplies in Northern Ireland are extremely safe, the higher number of failures in private supplies does present an increased risk to consumers. We work very closely with owners and users of private water supplies and with local council staff to ensure the risk is reduced and to prevent a potential danger to human health.

“Compliance at private water supply sites is equally important as those served by the mains water supply, especially when you consider there are private supplies serving hospitals and schools, where there is clearly potentially greater risk of harm to more vulnerable consumers from poor quality tap water.

“We support WaterSafe, as its register of approved plumbers is there to help those responsible for protecting public health make an informed choice, and not least ensure any work is done safely by a qualified plumber using approved materials and products to comply with the regulations.”

The annual Drinking Water Quality Reports for public and private water supplies can be read at

To find your nearest WaterSafe approved plumber, simply enter your postcode online in the postcode search at right.

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