Private Water Supplies - Case Study 2014/13

What constitutes a ‘commercial premises’ within the context of the legislation?

This case study relates to a common source of confusion where terminology relating to public and commercial use is often misunderstood and wrongly applied. It cites an enquiry which provides a useful opportunity to put into context the scope of the Regulations in terms of how Regulations 8, 9 and 10 are interpreted by local authorities when discharging their duties under The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009 (2010 in Wales).

In October 2014, the Inspectorate received an enquiry from a property agent requesting an interpretation of the definition of ‘commercial premises’, and the source of the legislation from which this definition is derived.

The 1998 EU Drinking Water Directive sets out member states’ obligations in respect of water intended for human consumption and food production undertakings, which have been transposed by the UK Government into the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009 (2010 in Wales), which were made law under the Water Industry Act 1991. The duties vary according to whether the private water supply is being used for domestic purposes (defined in the WIA 1991), intended for ‘human consumption’ (defined in Regulation 2 – Scope of the Regs) or is in a public or commercial activity.

It is important to note that the terms commercial premises and commercial property are not defined in the legislation. This is because the nature of the activity for which land and/or buildings on land supplied by a private water supply is being used, is not necessarily relevant, only where the water is being consumed for domestic purposes within the scope of Regulation 2(b) of the Regulations (water that is used in food production for the manufacture, processing, preservation or marketing of products or substances intended for human consumption).

The legislation therefore relates to the nature in which the water is being consumed for domestic purposes, not whether the building it serves is a commercial premises, or not.

It should be noted also that any property (including single domestic dwellings) where water served by a private supply that is providing rented accommodation constitutes a Regulation 9 supply. This is because renting qualifies as a commercial activity under the Drinking Water Directive on the basis that landlords of such premises are obliged, under housing law, to provide a supply of wholesome water for domestic purposes.