Private Water Supplies - Case Study 2013/21

An example of a simple, but effective, regime for managing a private supply serving a public building

This case study concerns a private supply serving a sports clubhouse with residential facilities and communal kitchen. A committee of volunteers runs the clubhouse. The facility is let out on an informal basis to other members and visitors. The supply to the premises is a spring.

The local authority identified this as a Regulation 9 supply and carried out a risk assessment. This identified a catchment risk of faecal contamination from livestock and wildlife that was verified by the detection of E.coli in samples. A Regulation 18 Notice was put in place requiring the relevant persons to take action to install a spring collection chamber with a diversion ditch for surface water run-off together with appropriate treatment.

Once the improvements had been carried out, including the installation of a UV unit with a prefilter, the committee identified the importance of putting in place management arrangements for the water supply. They drew up a schematic showing the key assets and critical control points from source to tap. Operating instructions were prepared, laminated and placed on the wall above the treatment system describing how to replace the pre-filter whenever visual checks showed there was a build up of organic matter and sediment. The instructions were written in a way that allowed anyone occupying the clubhouse to be able to take action without a committee member being on site. They also served to capture knowledge about the water supply developing resilience given the regular turnover of committee members. In particular, the procedures provided a simple way of achieving handover of critical information in a volunteer setting.

Effective active management is a critical control in securing the safety of a private supply. This case study illustrates how ‘active management’ can be introduced simply and does not require onerous operating manuals or special skills. A simple hand-drawn schematic is sufficient to record the critical assets within a supply system and instructions for regular checks of critical controls can often be summarised in a few bullet points. The Inspectorate recommends that local authorities’ formal improvement notices or written advice letters to private supply owners always include a requirement for a management system to be put in place.