Private Water Supplies

Whether public or private, safe drinking water is essential to good health. Private supplies can, if not properly protected and treated, pose a threat to health. Supplies can become contaminated with bacteria and, although this might ultimately not be life-threatening, it may cause serious illness to particularly vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the sick or the very young.


1. Who is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance?

When purchasing a property it is crucial that your solicitor find out this information and, if the position is unclear, that you consider the potential future cost implications for maintenance in years to come, especially if the supply emanates from a long distance away and is not used by others.

2. Where is the source and how does it get to your property?

Again your solicitor should be able to check and advise.

3. Is the private supply treated in any way?

The Home Report made available by the seller to the buyer may indicate the nature of any treatment or whether filtration equipment has been fitted. If in any doubt check directly with the property owner. Local councils monitor private supplies which serve more than one property and can, for a fee, test the potability of the supply. Alternatively, you can arrange for your own test using a private laboratory.

You should note that water quality can change at different times of the year and can be affected by heavy rainfall, crop spray etc. A water test will only tell you about the quality of the water at the time of the test.

4. How do I keep my supply as safe as possible?

Both the Local Authority and private companies can provide detailed and specific advice for individual situations. The following, should, however be borne in mind:-

  •  ‘Fence in’ the supply overflow pipes and vents to stop interference and contamination e.g. from farm and other animals.
  •  Water collection chambers should have watertight walls and lids and should not be close to any soakaway or drain.
  •  If you think that your supply may be unsafe all water used for drinking or food preparation should first be boiled.

Finally, many private water supplies in Scotland are naturally acidic and may dissolve lead. If your supply passes through a tank or pipes – either inside or outside – there may be a significant amount of dissolved lead contained in the supply. This can be harmful to very young children. 

The Local Authority will advise on replacement of pipes etc. and grant assistance may be available. 

If you have any questions or require any legal advice about private water supplies, please contact Patricia Gray, Partner on 01224 868687 or

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