Water Quality

The main duty of this Council with regard to water quality is the routine sampling of Private Water Supplies within our area.

Private Water Supplies

Information on what private water supplies are and ways they are tested

What is a private water supply?

This is water supplied to homes and businesses that is not provided by a water company, such as South West Water.  Most private water supplies are in rural locations and are from wells, boreholes, springs or streams.  Approximately 1% of the population in England and Wales has a private water supply to their homes.  We keep a register of over 500 properties served by private water supplies in Torridge.

Safe drinking water is essential to good health - private water supplies are monitored because they may not be properly protected or treated and can become contaminated with bacteria and chemicals.

What are the implications of the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009?

The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009 cover all private water supplies and private distributions systems.  They came into effect in January 2010 and apply to water used for domestic purposes;  for example drinking, cooking, food preparation and washing, and also for water used for commercial purposes, such as hotels and restaurants.

Supplies are categorised into four groups:

  1. Single private dwellings.
  2. Small domestic supplies (more than one dwelling) supplying fewer than 50 people.
  3. Large domestic supplies supplying over 50 people or serving commercial premises, including B&B's and holiday lets.
  4. Private distribution systems where mains water is supplied to a person or business and then distributed by that person or business to other buildings, domiciles, draw   off points etc using private pipes or tanks - this can include caravan parks.

Risk assessments

The regulations require the council to carry out a risk assessment of private water supplies every five years (other than a supply that only serves a single dwelling - see below).  We take into account the source of the water, how it reaches the consumer and the number of people using it.  We also take into account whether the water is for domestic or commercial use, and in particular if it is used for food preparation.  The risk assessment involves surveying the supply to identify potential contamination, identifying possible prevention measures and treatment options. This risk assessment helps us decide how to monitor the supply and how often it should be monitored.

Sampling requirements

Water should be tested on a regular basis for a range of chemicals and micro-organisms that might cause an unpleasant taste or smell, or could affect the health of the person drinking it.  We also test for some substances which may not be harmful in themselves but could indicate that a more serious problem exists.

  1. Single private dwellings: Single private dwellings do not require routine monitoring or a risk assessment.  However, we recommend supplies are regularly checked and we can sample or risk assess at the owners request.
  2. Small domestic supplies: The amount of monitoring required by the council will depend on the outcome of the risk assessment.  However, it will be a minimum of once every five years. Supplies will be sampled for basic parameters and anything else that arises from the risk assessment.
  3. Private distribution systems: Monitoring must be carried out according to the outcome of the risk assessment.
  4. Large supplies or commercial premises: The council will undertake two types of monitoring on these supplies:
  • Check monitoring ensures the wholesomeness of the water, the frequency of check monitoring will depend on the amount of water used
  • Audit monitoring determines whether the water supply meets the relevant standards.  The range of tests for audit monitoring is extensive and the amount of monitoring depends on the outcome of the risk assessment.

We will arrange additional sampling upon request.

The Council will make a charge to cover the cost of carrying out risk assessments and sampling and any other duties under these Regulations - see fees and charges http://www.torridge.gov.uk/article/12721/Financial-Services-Publications


The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) issued interim guidance in March 2011 for milking parlours served by a small private water supply (http://dwi.defra.gov.uk/stakeholders/guidance-and-codes-of-practice/pws-milk.pdf).  This recommends that at the present time local authorities do not need to carry out sampling or a risk assessment where a private water supply serves only a milking parlour, or a milking parlour and a single dwelling, providing there is no other commercial use, no other relevant food activity and no public activity or building.  Water sampling may be necessary to assure milk quality and safety and will be sampled on request.  The DWI will be reviewing this guidance.

What happens if the supply fails the required standard?

If a private water supply is tested and does not meet the standard, we may advise boiling water, or using bottled water until changes have been made to improve the water supply.  Please note, you should refer to the advice of the Food Standards Agency before giving bottled water to babies.

Recommended actions to improve the supply may include:

  • fencing off the area around a spring to prevent animals from causing contamination
  • creating an exclusion zone around a spring or a well so that fertilisers are not spread in the area
  • improving drainage around the source of the supply
  • replacing pipework

It may be necessary to install treatment to remove or lower the level of particular substances, for example:

  • ultra violet filters to destroy bacteria such as E.coli
  • acidity regulator
  • reverse Osmosis filters to remove aluminium or nitrates
  • iron and Manganese filters
  • filters to remove lead


We may need to investigate the cause of sample failures that give rise to health concerns.  This can be substituted by a risk assessment being carried out.


If a supply is badly contaminated the Council might serve a formal Notice to prevent the water from being consumed until work has been carried out to improve the water quality to a required standard. Failure to comply with the notices may result in either works in default or prosecution in a Magistrates Court. Appeals can be made to the Magistrates Court or the Secretary of State depending on which notice is served.


We can serve an authorisation to allow failed supplies to continue whilst works are carried out to achieve compliance.  Authorisations may only be granted for failures that do not constitute a health risk (usually chemical parameters).  Before we issue one, we will consult all water users and the Health Authority and take their views into account. We will inform them of the authorisation and its conditions and provide advice to those that may be at greater risk, for example parents of babies.  We will review authorisations from time to time to ensure sufficient progress is being made towards improvement.

Who will be charged?

The council will apply a charge to any relevant person requesting a risk assessment, sampling or other activity - see fees and charges http://www.torridge.gov.uk/article/12721/Financial-Services-Publications

Otherwise fees are payable as specified in the invoice, by the relevant person as defined in section 80(7) of the Water Industry Act 1991.  This may be the owner or occupier of the property served by the supply, the owners and occupiers of the premises where the source is situated or any other person who exercises powers of management or control in relation to the source.

Where more than one person is liable the Council may divide the charge between them;  this may be the case for small domestic supplies where the owners share maintenance costs and do not pay anyone for supplying them with water.  This may depend on any agreement or other document shown to the local authority relating to the terms under which water is supplied.

Further Information on Private Water Supplies

The Drinking Water Inspectorate may offer further information.  This can be obtained through the following link www.dwi.gov.uk

Bathing & Recreational Water

The Environmental Protection Team of Torridge District Council publishes results taken by the Environment Agency during the bathing season May to September.

Environment Agency Sampling

Discharges from sewage treatment works or outfalls around our coast can affect the quality of water used for bathing and can result in offensive material being found on our beaches. The EC Directive on Bathing Waters sets out water quality standards to protect the health of bathers.

Within the administrative area of Torridge District Council we have two EC Designated Bathing Beaches at Hartland Quay and Westward Ho!  Under the legislation of the Bathing Water Quality Directive 76/160/EEC, the Environment Agency is required to take twenty samples from Westward Ho! beach and five samples from Hartland Quay during the bathing season from May to September.

What do the icons mean?

Water quality in the sample met the Directive's most stringent Guideline standards:

  • Total coliforms no more than 500 per 100ml of water
  • Faecal coliforms no more than 100 per 100ml of water
  • Faecal Streptococci no more than 100 per 100ml of water


Water quality in the sample met the Directive's main Mandatory standards:

  • Total coliforms no more than 10,000 per 100 ml of water
  • Faecal coliforms no more than 2,000 per 100 ml of water

Water quality in the sample failed to meet the main Mandatory standards.

What does a 'thumbs up' mean?

A 'thumbs up' means this beach has been awarded a Seaside Award/Blue Flag Award by Tidy Britain Group (TBG) based on last years results.

  • Seaside Awards are presented to resort/rural beaches that are well managed with excellent facilities, with mandatory water quality
  • Blue Flag resorts additionally have guideline water quality

For more information see the TBG website http://www.keepbritaintidy.org/

What is the Bathing Water Directive?

The Directive sets limits for a number of substances, and all countries in the European Union have to ensure their popular beaches meet these standards.

What are Coliforms?

The Coliform group of bacteria are the most important of the Directive standards tested for. In general these can be taken as an indication of sewage contamination present.

How is water quality assessed over a bathing season?

In accordance with the Bathing Water Directive

Guideline: Over a bathing season 80% of samples must be equal to or better than the stringent faecal coliform Guideline standards and 90%, equal to or better than, the faecal streptococci standard.

Mandatory: Over a bathing season 95% of samples taken must be equal to or better than the main Mandatory standards.

Further details may be obtained by contacting the Environmental Protection Team or The Regional Office of the Environment Agency at:
Environment Agency
Manley House
Kestrel Way

03708 506506

You can also visit the Environment Agency website for more information on water quality at www.environment-agency.gov.uk

Mains Water

Torridge District Council has no legal powers over the quality of mains supplies.  The duty to provide good quality mains water in this area is that of South West Water;  you can contact them with any concerns you may have on 03708 506506.  However, Environmental Protection does have a watching brief and will offer advice and guidance on any mains water concerns you may have.