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Behemoth

Defra Consultation on Regulation of Private Water Supplies

http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/private-watersupplies/index.htm

Foreword by Phil Woolas MP, Minister for the Environment

One of the policy objectives of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is to ensure that everyone who occupies property that is served by water from a private supply, or who consumes or buys any drinks or food made with water from a private supply, can be assured of the quality and safety of the water.

Defra has examined data collected from local authorities which indicates that there are about 42,000 private supplies in England. About 60% of these are individual supplies to single private dwellings, typically drawn from a private well or borehole on the premises. Most of the other private supplies in England are also small, often serving perhaps several dwellings, but there are also some larger supplies that may serve a larger number of domestic or commercial properties, or a combination of both.

Private supplies in England may provide up to about one third of a million people with water for their day-to-day domestic needs. However, there are a large number of transient and occasional consumers of water derived from private supplies through food products and drinks made with water from private supplies, holiday homes, bed and breakfast accommodation and at outdoor recreational events.

The current regulatory arrangements are set out in the Private Water Supplies Regulations 1991. These Regulations were made under powers in the Water Industry Act 1991 and were intended to implement Directive 80/778/EEC relating to the quality of water intended for human consumption. The Regulations were supplemented by policy and technical guidance, principally Circular 24/91 issued by the former Department of the Environment, and by advice from the Drinking Water Inspectorate.

The 1991 Regulations have resulted in improved quality of many private supplies. However, not all supplies are satisfactory and local authorities have indicated, in particular, that the discretionary powers under which they may seek to enforce current regulatory standards for wholesomeness and other requirements do not always work well in practice.

This regulatory framework needs to be up-dated to meet the requirements of Directive 98/83/EC on the quality of water intended for human consumption. This has set some new and tighter standards for drinking water quality and includes new requirements for taking and analysing samples and for taking action when there is a failure to meet standards. The Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2000, as amended, transpose the Directive into national law in respect of the public water supplies that the statutory water undertakers (and other licensed public water suppliers) provide in England. However, these Regulations are concerned solely with public supplies and do not apply to private supplies. Consequently, new Regulations are required to transpose the 1998 Directive in relation to private supplies in England.

While introducing the measures that are necessary to transpose the 1998
4
Directive, Defra also takes the opportunity to strengthen and simplify the enforcement powers available to local authorities, to ensure that water from private supplies is wholesome and clean, and that people who drink water or consume food or drinks made from private supplies may do so safely, without risk to their health.
The purpose of this consultation paper is to set out Defra’s draft proposals for new Regulations, identified in this consultation paper as “The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2008.

Defra encourages local authorities, other organisations and stakeholders and those with an interest in the quality of water from private supplies to comment on the proposed Regulations, the consultation points and wider issues raised in the consultation paper. These comments will help to inform the decisions of Defra on the scope and content of the final Regulations to be laid before Parliament as soon as possible.

I am very pleased to be launching this consultation paper and Defra will look forward to receiving your comments and suggestions on the regulation of private supplies in due course.
5
Penny Outskirts

Re: Defra Consultation on Regulation of Private Water Suppli

Behemoth wrote:
Defra encourages local authorities, other organisations and stakeholders and those with an interest in the quality of water from private supplies to comment on the proposed Regulations,


Here's a comment - bog off!
OP

This is very forward-thinking by Defra. They have obviously worked out that with the water companies on a mission to increase their charges above the rate of inflation and a regulator apparently doing little to stop them, more and more people will be tempted to sink boreholes in their gardens.
Behemoth

Laughing
ariana

Re: Defra Consultation on Regulation of Private Water Suppli

Penny wrote:
Behemoth wrote:
Defra encourages local authorities, other organisations and stakeholders and those with an interest in the quality of water from private supplies to comment on the proposed Regulations,


Here's a comment - bog off!


Seconded! With bells on Laughing

Whilst I appreciate that if I were running a catering business or offering bed and breakfast for example, using water from my private supply, then the persons consuming it have rights to be able to do so safely. But I don't. So they can p**s right off. Mad What the hell has it got to do with them? There's far too many people claiming a right to what I can and can't do these days. We have never had our well water tested in twenty something years, nor do we ever intend to do so. The farmer her before us lived until he was 92 and to the best of our knowledge our water has never so much as upset a delicate tum. Rolling Eyes
dpack

i wonder what they will say if i drink from a spring or stream
have they a tickbox for making tea with puddles ?
even if they have i dont think they will have one for herbivore stomach liquour Laughing
Behemoth

dpack wrote:
i dont think they will have one for herbivore stomach liquour Laughing


That would be a non modal niche market. Laughing
ariana

dpack wrote:
i wonder what they will say if i drink from a spring or stream
Laughing


It will probably become a hanging offence! Laughing
Treacodactyl

What surprised me is the fact many of the mains pipes owned by the water companies are still lead. Is there any timescale for all these pipes to be replaced?
Behemoth

No national programme though each company may have its own depending on circumstances. Very little funding has been allowed by the regulators for such a programme as 'plumbosolvency' can be tackled through treatment.

We have a 'we'll remove ours if you remove yours' policy, as there's not much point in replacing the company's pipe to the house if the customer side is lead.

This is what it says on our website:

"There’s virtually no lead present in our water sources or in the water we supply from our treatment works. However, many older
properties have lead supply pipes, which connect our water main
to your property, and also as part of the internal plumbing.

Lead is also present in some types of solder used for joining copper pipes. The lead from these pipes and fittings can dissolve into the water and thus result in raised levels of lead in water from the tap. Installation of lead plumbing and use of lead solders have been prohibited by Water Fittings Regulations (formerly known as Water Byelaws) for many years.

What are the standards?
Standards are set for lead in drinking water because it’s recognised that the intake of lead from all sources should be minimised for health reasons. The UK water quality standard for lead, based on the European Union standard, was reduced in December 2003 from 50μg/l (parts per billion) to 25μg/l and will be reduced further to 10μg/l in 2013. This is in line with the World Health Organisation’s guideline value of 10μg/l.

How do we perform?
Modification of the treatment process (known as plumbosolvency control) reduces the amount of lead dissolved from pipes. Since 1995 we’ve installed this treatment at almost all of our treatment works. As a result, compliance with the current 25μg/l standard has improved from 92% in 1995 to greater than 99% in 2004 and we’re already very near to full compliance with the future standard of 10μg/l, with more than 98% of all samples taken at customers’ taps complying with this strict standard. Further reduction in leaching of lead into the water is being achieved by additional optimisation of treatment processes.

Despite this great improvement in compliance, the removal of lead pipes and fittings is the best way of removing all risk of elevated levels of lead in your water. If you believe that you’ve lead pipes or that solder containing lead may have been used in your plumbing and you are concerned about the possible level of lead in water at your tap, you can contact us here or by phoning 0845 1 24 24 24 and requesting samples to be taken. We’ll replace any lead pipes in our part of the supply from the water main to the stop tap at the boundary of your property free of charge, if we receive a written request from a customer who is prepared to remove their lead supply pipe, which runs from the boundary of the property to the point of entry into the building.

We advise that water that’s been standing in lead pipes for long periods (for example, overnight) shouldn’t be used for drinking, cooking or preparing babies’ feeds. About 1 gallon/4.5 litres (or half a washing-up bowl) should be flushed from the kitchen cold tap before such use, or less if water has been drawn recently from other taps or by flushing the toilet etc.
(μg/l = microgrammes per litre = 1 part per billion)"

The easisets way to deal with the 'problem' in most urban areas is to flush the toilet when the water has been standing for some time, e.g. overnight.
James

this is all very noble of DEFRA....but:

1) funding for local authorities to monitor water quality is paired to the bone. The degree of knowledge and understanding of water quality issues in local authoritees that I've spoken to is, frankly, shocking. The ability to manage water quality in the long term in non existent as far as I can make out.
I agree with what DEFRA are doing, but sweet words butter no parsnips. Local authorities need more funding and more technical compitance in what is a complex field. Not more talking.

2) The government changed the law on licensing of private water supplies recently so that abstractions of less than 20 cubic metres per day didn't need a license. When the water resources act (1991) was updated, they didn't make it compulsory for private individuals to register their supplies with the local authorities. I know of drilling companies that are installing agricultural (irrigation) grade boreholes for suplies and not registering them. Its all fully legal, but highly risky. There is NO record of these boreholes whatsoever, nor is there any way of retrospectively accounting for these boreholes. Its these supplies that are at highest risk. Without a change to the law, DEFRA are quite simply p*ssing into the wind and it wont actually reach the people who are at risk.

And with regard to Ariana & Penny:
Which costs more, a water sample for criptosporidium or treating a whole family for bacterial disentry, taking up multiple beds for many weeks in our overstretched health service? Maybe you'd prefer to to tell the NHS to bog off also.
This may sound over-blown, because your private supplies are nice & clean & safe, but I've visited private boreholes where effluent from a broken septic tank is ponding around the top of the borehole. Not everyone's smart enough to look after their water resources correctly and unfortunately we have to treat everyone equally.
I know we don't like big bureaucratic institutions poking around in our own business, but quite honestly, there's normally a very good reason. If it was cheaper for you to get ill and die, and if the United Nations allowed the government to allowed you to die, they probably wouldn't bother monitoring.
dpack

water is basic and most people require help with basic needs
proving water to be safe is important for them
personally i prefer to choose a spring rather than trust the "treatment" process ,in town this is often not an option .
Treacodactyl

Behemoth wrote:
No national programme though each company may have its own depending on circumstances. Very little funding has been allowed by the regulators for such a programme as 'plumbosolvency' can be tackled through treatment.

We have a 'we'll remove ours if you remove yours' policy, as there's not much point in replacing the company's pipe to the house if the customer side is lead.


That's a bit of a cop out isn't it? Water companies still make profits so they could spend more on replacing lead pipes? I grew up with the idea that lead pipes should be replaced asap in properties and I would guess many older properties do now have a non-lead mains pipe. That's why I was surprised to find that many water-board mains pipes are often still lead. You replace your 20 foot or so of lead pipe but your water still travels for miles through lead. Rolling Eyes Now either the water-board mains should be replaced or it's not necessary to replace your properties lead pipe?
James

dpack wrote:

personally i prefer to choose a spring rather than trust the "treatment" process ,in town this is often not an option .


springs aren't as clean as you think. If it dries up in summer, its likely to be sourced from near surface and so will be bacterialy active and probably have high concentrations of dissolved solids. Many springs in rural areas for example have high levels of pesticides in them. We're still finding elevated concentrations of DDT in some locations. Pesticides are so common in springs that we use them as time-line markers (rather like carbon dating) for dating the water.
Treacodactyl

How much does it cost to do a test for water quality and how reliable is it? I thought you need to be very careful taking the sample otherwise you're just testing the quality of the tap you're taking it from.
James

I'm not sure of the exact cost, but I'd imagine it'd be under £200 for an analysis of major ions and bacterial count and bacterial identity.

The tap should be sterilized first with alcohol, then the tap needs to be run for quite a while (fully open the tap & let run for 5 minutes or so to purge the water in the pipes). The glass bottle that the sample is taken in also needs to be be sterilized with a blow torch prior to putting the sample in the bottle, then the rim needs to be sterilized again after filling the bottle.

The local authority is sampling your drinking water, which is subtly different from sampling your borehole water, in that it also accounts for any risk in your pipework in between the borehole and your tap, so taking it from the source may not give a true representation of your bacterial risk at the tap.
Treacodactyl

Would it need to be done annually or less frequently do you think?
Behemoth

Treacodactyl wrote:
That's a bit of a cop out isn't it? Water companies still make profits so they could spend more on replacing lead pipes? I grew up with the idea that lead pipes should be replaced asap in properties and I would guess many older properties do now have a non-lead mains pipe. That's why I was surprised to find that many water-board mains pipes are often still lead. You replace your 20 foot or so of lead pipe but your water still travels for miles through lead. Rolling Eyes Now either the water-board mains should be replaced or it's not necessary to replace your properties lead pipe?


Water mains are very rarely made out of lead. As a large diameter pipe (4" and up) of lead is a poor material to use, lead's not much good beyond 2" as it starts to compress and deform. In very olden times hollow ash logs were used and from the start most of the early Victorian systems used cast iron. Since then ductile iron and plastic have been the preferred option. Lead was usually used for the 'communication pipe', the 1" pipe from the main to the house, and the internal plumbing, before copper was widely used. Most internal lead piping has been replaced now leaving the stretch between the main in the road and where it enters the house, even a lot of these have been replaced.

Replacing the remainin lead communication pipes is the most expensive option among competing priorities. Treatment achieves the same effect for less money. Customers have indicated they don't want to pay for a replacement programme.
Treacodactyl

That's strange, I've often seen lead water main pipe that supplies an entire road of houses.
James

Treacodactyl wrote:
Would it need to be done annually or less frequently do you think?


annually to start with, then reducing the frequency if nothings being picked up. Also after any work is done on or close to the rising main/ pressure vessel.
Bacterial count is highest in summer and after heavy rain so doing it now would give a good 'worst case' scenario.
Treacodactyl

James wrote:
Treacodactyl wrote:
Would it need to be done annually or less frequently do you think?


annually to start with, then reducing the frequency if nothings being picked up. Also after any work is done on or close to the rising main/ pressure vessel.
Bacterial count is highest in summer and after heavy rain so doing it now would give a good 'worst case' scenario.


I think the costs would need to come down from £200/y before people seriously accepted more regulations though.
OP

James wrote:
I'm not sure of the exact cost, but I'd imagine it'd be under £200 for an analysis of major ions and bacterial count and bacterial identity.

It makes you wonder how our ancestors managed, before ions and things were invented. Answer: probably a lot of them died from water-borne diseases ... but you do wonder how much of all this is really necessary for public health and how much is bureaucractic self-justification. I think there is a growing recognition that excessive disinfection and hygiene may do more harm than good.
Behemoth

Treacodactyl wrote:
That's strange, I've often seen lead water main pipe that supplies an entire road of houses.


Possible some 3" mains but rarely, however some councils up to WW2 did some peculiar things.

There is a programme to renovate mains but lead is not the investment driver, maintance and serviceability (i.e get rid of the old stuff that costs a lot to maintain and leaks like a sieve) and aesthetic discolouration are the main reasons. Lead is a poor choice for a main and would likely be up for replacement if it is there, along with rusty cast iron. In terms of quality there is some science behind larger lead pipe being less of a problem for lead solvency due to the greater floow and reduced amount of water in contact with the surface of the pipe, however the contirbution was minimal compared to domestic pipes and the few llarge lead mains there were.
dpack

James wrote:
dpack wrote:

personally i prefer to choose a spring rather than trust the "treatment" process ,in town this is often not an option .


springs aren't as clean as you think. If it dries up in summer, its likely to be sourced from near surface and so will be bacterialy active and probably have high concentrations of dissolved solids. Many springs in rural areas for example have high levels of pesticides in them. We're still finding elevated concentrations of DDT in some locations. Pesticides are so common in springs that we use them as time-line markers (rather like carbon dating) for dating the water.


im picky about the springs ,streams .etc apart from human dangers there are some heavily mineralised springs from the geology and critter contamination can put some fairly nasty things into water as well .
dpack

James wrote:
dpack wrote:

personally i prefer to choose a spring rather than trust the "treatment" process ,in town this is often not an option .


springs aren't as clean as you think. If it dries up in summer, its likely to be sourced from near surface and so will be bacterialy active and probably have high concentrations of dissolved solids. Many springs in rural areas for example have high levels of pesticides in them. We're still finding elevated concentrations of DDT in some locations. Pesticides are so common in springs that we use them as time-line markers (rather like carbon dating) for dating the water.


im picky about the springs ,streams .etc apart from human dangers there are some heavily mineralised springs from the geology and critter contamination can put some fairly nasty things into water as well .
James

Treacodactyl wrote:
I think the costs would need to come down from £200/y before people seriously accepted more regulations though.


That's the price I'd imagine a private individual would expect to pay, not the cost via the council.
If you have a private supply, the council should undertake the analysis for free as a service paid for from your council tax. At least, that's how it worked a few years ago when I lived in a house with a private supply.

If you haven't had an analysis of your private water supply done by the council, ask for one.

orangepippin wrote:
It makes you wonder how our ancestors managed, before ions and things were invented. Answer: probably a lot of them died from water-borne diseases ... but you do wonder how much of all this is really necessary for public health and how much is bureaucractic self-justification. I think there is a growing recognition that excessive disinfection and hygiene may do more harm than good.

Very true. The problem is that people move around so much. Historically, when people stayed in the same place, they'd developed a fauna in their gut that worked in symbiosis with the bacteria in their water supply- effectively, they developed a resistance. Nowadays, we don't have that. Most people drink sterile water, so when they drink water with a low count of a not particularly harmful strain of (..for example..) e-coli , instead of being able to cope with it, they sh*t through the eye of a needle. A little bit of dirt does a lot of good.
However...going back to a point I made earlier regarding dpack's desire for spring water: there are now a lot more pollutants in our water than there were in our ancestors times. I dont fancy drinking water laced with Chlorophos or Dieldrin.
Treacodactyl

James wrote:
Treacodactyl wrote:
I think the costs would need to come down from £200/y before people seriously accepted more regulations though.


That's the price I'd imagine a private individual would expect to pay, not the cost via the council.
If you have a private supply, the council should undertake the analysis for free as a service paid for from your council tax. At least, that's how it worked a few years ago when I lived in a house with a private supply.

If you haven't had an analysis of your private water supply done by the council, ask for one.


I don't have a private supply here, I've lived in a house with one in the past and quite possibly will in future.

It would be good if the council does pay for it, or at least subsidise it, although councils do charge for some services and make them more expensive than equivalent private service! Mad
Chez

We paid the council £85 for a test of the spring at the place were were supposed to be moving to last year.
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