Private water supplies

A private water supply is any supply which is not provided by a water undertaker. Find out more about how we monitor private water supplies.

The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016 (amended) require all water intended for human consumption to meet water quality standards, to be wholesome and not post a risk to human health. They require each supply to undergo a risk assessment, 

Unlike main water supplies, many private supplies are not treated to remove contamination. You may not be able to tell whether your water is safe; as contamination within the water may not be shown as a smell, taste or the colour of the water itself. 

The regulations cover:

  • Private Water Supplies – Water which is not provided by a water undertaker, such as Yorkshire Water, and is not considered to be a ‘mains supply’. The water may come from a spring, well, borehole, pond, lake, stream or river. 
  • Private Distribution Networks (PDN) – Water supplied by a water undertaker to one property which is then distributed around the site through a privately owned and maintained network of pipes to other properties/buildings occupied by a third party 

Water companies and the Drinking Water Inspectorate are responsible for mains water in North Yorkshire, but we are responsible for monitoring and undertaking risk assessments on private water supplies. 

All private water supplies must be registered with the council.

Private water supply categories

In addition to carrying out a risk assessment of water supplies, we are also responsible for monitoring supplies. Private water supplies are grouped into four categories:

Large/commercial supplies

  • any commercial activity, such as hotels, B&Bs/holiday lets, restaurants, cafés 
  • public buildings, such as hospitals, schools and museums 
  • any supply for domestic use over 10m3 per day, which serves at least 50 people

Small supplies

  • serves at least two properties
  • serves fewer than 50 people
  • uses less than 10m3 of water per day
  • is not used for commercial or public activity

Single dwelling supplies

  • supply to a single premises where there is no commercial or public use 

We are not required to monitor or carry out a risk assessment on these supplies unless it is requested by the property owner/ occupier.

Private Distribution Networks (PDNs)

  • mains water is supplied to a primary residence and then distributed via a private network of distribution pipes to one or more privately owned, secondary premises

Examples of Private Distribution Networks may include:

  • caravan and camping sites 
  • military establishments 
  • schools, colleges and university campuses 
  • hospital sites 
  • Shopping centres 
  • private or publicly owned estates where water is distributed to other buildings

If you would like further information on identifying Private Distribution Systems, or if you think you may be responsible for a PDN or served by one, please contact us.

Impact of owning a Private Distribution Network 

As you distribute water around your site or premises to clients/third parties, it is your responsibility to ensure the continued quality of safe drinking water from the boundary of the site to the end consumer. 


The water distributed through a PDN is required to meet the standards set by the Private Water Supplies Regulations. If standards are not met, we must investigate and ensure appropriate action is taken. Where there is a potential danger to human health, we will take formal action to prohibit or restrict the use of the supply and to ensure improvements are made.

Private monitoring of supply 

If you already monitor the water or have had a risk assessment undertaken on the PDN by a suitably qualified person, please contact us. The local authority is responsible for ensuring sampling is completed according to legislation, therefore if you would like another company to take and analyse samples of your private water supply, we will need to approve the sampling company and the parameters to be analysed, prior to samples being taken. The analysis must comply with the new legislation, and the result certificates sent directly from the laboratory to the council.

What we do

The council has a responsibility to: 

  • carry out a risk assessment of all Private Water Supplies every five years (except for supplies to single domestic dwellings) 
  • monitor supplies for instance, take samples 
  • investigate any failures to meet the standards set by the Regulations and ensure appropriate action is taken to remedy the cause 
  • take formal action to prohibit/restrict the use of the supply and to ensure action is taken if the supply is a potential danger to human health 
  • grant authorisations, unless the supply causes a potential danger to human health  
  • to keep records of all Private Water Supplies, samples taken and their related results, plus any enforcement action taken, and supply this information to the Drinking Water Inspectorate each year 

How we monitor private water supplies 

The risk assessments work alongside a sampling programme to identify where, if necessary, improvements can be made to the supply and whether there is a risk to the health of consumers. In this case, action can be taken to improve the supply.

Risk assessments

Risk assessment is a detailed examination of the water supply from source through to the consumer’s tap to identify potential hazards to human health. The information analysed in the assessment will be recorded in a report, allowing action to be taken to manage risks through a multi-barrier approach, involving source protection, treatment of the source water and management of the distribution network.

The regulations require each supply (excluding single private domestic dwellings) to undergo a risk assessment every five years.

Risk assessments are usually carried out by prior appointment and, where possible, details of what needs to be inspected/considered will be provided prior to the site visit. This ensures the owner/occupier can arrange access to the various parts of the water system and arrange for someone with detailed knowledge of the system to attend. This may reduce the time our officer requires to complete the assessment, and therefore reduce the cost. The risk assessment will typically take approximately two hours.

Charges apply for this work; please see the relevant section below.


Samples from private water supplies will normally be taken from a consumer tap and then sent for analysis at an approved laboratory. The sampling frequency and the extent of analysis required will depend on the results of the risk assessment. Factors influencing sampling requirements include the type of source (for example, borehole, well etc), how well it is protected, the treatment methods in place, the number of people served by the supply and the intended use of the water. 

  • large/commercial supplies are required to undergo regular 'check monitoring', as well as more extensive 'audit monitoring' on a less frequent basis. The more water used, the more often the water is sampled
  • small supplies must be sampled once every five years, and more frequently if shown to be necessary by the risk assessment
  • supplies serving only an individual domestic dwelling will only be risk assessed and tested at the request of the owner or occupier


Any sample that fails to adhere to the Private Water Supply Regulations must be investigated to determine the reason for the failure and to identify what action is needed to improve the supply. This may mean further sampling being conducted at the source, holding tanks and/or other parts of the infrastructure to assist the investigation. If a wholesome supply cannot be achieved through implementing physical changes to the supply network, the water will require treatment before use. A wide range of treatment options are available.


In the event of failure, where a supply is found to be 'unwholesome' or a 'risk to human health', a notice will be served either prohibiting or restricting the supply, as appropriate. The notice will be specific for each supply that has a failure of standards. This notice can be appealed in a magistrate's court and/or by appeal to the secretary of state, but the notice will remain in force until either it has been complied with or it is suspended by the courts/secretary of state.


In certain circumstances where a supply fails the water quality standard, but the failure is of a parameter which does not cause a risk to health, the council may grant an 'authorisation' to exceed the statutory limit. This authorisation would be implemented temporarily while measures are put in place to correct the problem. 

Fees and charges

The council will charge the costs of carrying out their duties under these regulations to those responsible for the supply. Where part of a shared supply is used by some commercial activity, for example, bed and breakfast, pub, campsite, the charges may be divided between the commercial and non-commercial properties proportionally.

Please visit this page to find out costs for your area 

Problems with water supply

If you are connected to a mains water supply and you have a problem with or query about your water supply, you should first contact Yorkshire Water.

If you have a problem with a Private Water Supply, you should contact us.

Further resources