Private Water Supplies

Water supplies and sampling in Worcestershire

Approximately one percent of the population of England and Wales are served by some 100,000 private water supplies. Private Water Supplies are those which are not provided by a statutory water undertaker such as Severn Trent Water (unless it is subsequently supplied by someone else). The water can be from a spring, well or borehole, and in some cases from a pond or stream.
The Government introduced the Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016 to protect the health of people using private supplies, as it is essential that people have clean, wholesome water. Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) has a duty to monitor the quality of water supplies on behalf of the Worcestershire Local Authorities.

Supplies are categorised as:

  • Large or Commercial/Public - supply an average daily volume of 10 cubic metres or more, or supply water to premises where the water is used for a commercial activity or to public premises
  • Multiple dwelling supplies for domestic use only
  • Single dwelling supplies for domestic use only
  • Onwardly distributed mains water

All supplies except single dwellings now have to be risk assessed every five years. This is to establish whether there is a significant risk of supplying water that would constitute a potential danger to human health. Future sampling and the range of parameters sampled for would then be based on the outcome of the risk assessment (low risk – less frequent sampling, high risk – more frequent sampling.

Further information:

Under Schedule 5 of the Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016, the Council may recover from any relevant person its reasonable costs for sampling, risk assessing and analysing a private water supply. This may result in an increased charge compared to the 1991 regulations. Charges are set for each element of the service and the charging policy in Worcestershire is as follows:

  • Risk Assessment £60 per hour
  • Sampling £60 per hour
  • Investigation £60 per hour

Analysing a sample:

  • Laboratory analysis charges at cost – Minimum £150

If a supply is either a potential danger to human health or unwholesome, those receiving the water, and/or the person/s with the license to abstract the water, or the landowner on which the source is located could all have responsibility to improve the supply. This depends on the circumstances for each individual case.
Worcestershire Regulatory Services has the power to serve a notice under Regulation 18 for supplies that are a potential danger to human health. This can require the prohibition or restriction of the use of the supply and can specify improvements to the supply) For supplies that are unwholesome a Notice can be served under Section 80 of the Water Industry Act to improve the supply.
Designated Officers of Regulatory Services have powers to enter land and premises to carry out sampling, powers to obtain relevant information and also to authorise works in default if necessary.
Generally, most failures are due to poor bacteriological quality or contamination with nitrates from previous intensive use of agricultural land. There are treatment processes available for both of these.

It is important that wells, springs and boreholes are protected from contamination by surface water, animal activity, and septic tank pollution. Suitable location, design and construction are essential to minimise this.

At source:

  • Wells and boreholes should be sited uphill of and at least 30 metres away from septic tanks and pipes conveying foul waste.
  • There should be a sealed, waterproof inspection cover over any spring collection chamber, wellhead or borehole. This should be surrounded by benching that slopes away from the cover.
  • Construction materials should be such that they do not themselves contaminate the water.
  • Wells and boreholes should be lined to a depth where there can be no surface water contamination.
    Spring collection chambers should be enclosed with stock proof fencing at least four metres distant. All overflow pipes and other relevant apparatus should be vermin proof. A ditch at least half a metre deep should be excavated around the collection chamber to divert surface water away.

At point of entry:

This is where the supply is treated prior to it entering the properties served. The most common treatment methods are by filtration, disinfection or sterilisation. They can be used in combination to remove several undesirable contaminants, or singly for a specific contaminant.

At point of use:

This is where a treatment device is installed immediately prior to the tap or point of supply within the property. The same methods used above are available, but where there is a risk to health from untreated water used at other points (ie bacteriological contamination), it may be more suitable to treat the entire supply to a property or connect to the public water supply.

Other methods are available, and further advice should be obtained from a specialist water treatment consultant (not a plumber). Should you have any further general enquiries regarding private water supplies, please contact Worcestershire Regulatory Services on 01905 822799, or e-mail or further advice is available via DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) e-mail:

Water Analysis for Malvern Hills Spouts

The following were tested on 27th Feb 2024:

    Enterococci E. coli Total Coliforms
Holy Well   0 0 not tested
Hayslad Spout see note below      
St Anns Well   0 0 not tested
Malvhina   0 0 not tested

(Hayslad Spout is no longer a public spout under the PWS Regulations as the spout is supplied by springs owned by Severn Trent Water. A permanent sign advising not to use the water for drinking has been put up by Severn Trent on site. )

The results indicate which of the spouts that have failed bacteriological testing, but please be aware that this is a snapshot in time and the testing is indicative only. We advise all consumers of the water from all the spouts to boil it for their own safety at all times, bringing the water to the boil is recommended. There are permanent signs on some of the spouts advising that the quality of the water can not be guaranteed and consumers are advised to boil the water.

Please note: The water for the Holy Well bottling plant is subject to bottled water regulations and is not part of the testing regime above.