Drinking Water Quality Failures Caused by Home Plumbing

Drinking water supplies in Wales are overwhelmingly high quality, with 99.97 per cent of water supplied to homes and businesses passing crucial water quality tests, according to the Drinking Water Inspectorate’s annual report.

However, routine water samples conducted by water companies reveal more than a third of tests which fail to meet the standard were caused by poor internal plumbing. This included the presence of bacteria and chemicals as well as taste and odour problems.

Poor plumbing practices and unsuitable fittings are one of the main causes of drinking water quality being affected, after it has been transferred safely from water mains into people’s homes.

Using unsuitable or non-compliant products can allow bacteria to form. In one such case in Wales, a shower head fitting had been attached to a kitchen tap, causing bacteria to grow inside the attachment.

Householders are advised to only install compliant plumbing products. To be compliant with the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations, products must be tested to ensure they meet standards and are fit for use.

Now WaterSafe, the UK register for approved contractors working with drinking water, is urging homeowners and property managers to always employ someone who is officially approved to work on their plumbing system - to help maintain the quality of their drinking water.

Julie Spinks, Director at WaterSafe, explains: “Using a WaterSafe approved contractor for any work on your water supply pipe or internal plumbing is one of the easiest ways to help protect you and your family.

“Simple plumbing tasks can make a big difference, such as making sure that your taps are clean and in good working order, and never fitting any unapproved device to them, such as shower heads.

“Using a WaterSafe approved plumber gives customers reassurance that they are using a competent and qualified professional to maintain high-quality drinking water within their homes.”

Marcus Rink, Chief Executive of the Drinking Water Inspectorate, explains: “Overall, drinking water in England is extremely high quality, meeting 99.97% compliance with the required standard.

“It’s important that we are not complacent as our annual report details more than a third of the samples which failed to meet the required standard were due to problems with internal plumbing.

“We’d caution people to avoid unqualified installers who may inadvertently cause water supplies to become contaminated, and to instead choose a suitably qualified, approved, plumber.

“Consumers should use an installer who is approved through a national accreditation body for competent and qualified installers, such as WaterSafe.”

The annual water quality reports summarise the results of the hundreds of thousands of water quality tests which UK water companies carry out each year on the water they supply from water treatment works and clean water storage tanks, to customers’ own homes.

These tests are analysed at specialist laboratories, with the results reported to water watchdog, the Drinking Water Inspectorate.

Customers can find their nearest WaterSafe-approved plumber, or other specialist contractor, by visiting watersafe.org.uk.

The annual Drinking Water Report can be downloaded at dwi.gov.uk.

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