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Private water supplies

There are thousands of private water supplies in Cornwall.  These range in source from boreholes and wells to springs and adits.

As a rural area, many properties in Cornwall cannot easily connect to the mains supply. So a private supply is their only option for water.  In other cases, the availability of groundwater is a cost effective way to get water.

What we do

The private water supplies team within Public Protection:

  • manages the quality of private water supplies in Cornwall for Cornwall Council,
  • ensures the water is safe and enabling the Council to meet its legal responsibilities on water quality.

We have a legal responsibility to:

  • sample
  • and risk assess

 private water supplies in Cornwall.

All the water samples we take are analysed by a UKAS accredited laboratory which works to internationally agreed standards.

Tell us about your supply

We have a duty to keep up to date records of all private water supplies in Cornwall.  If you've recently received a letter from us asking about your supply, please use the links below to complete the online survey or download the form. 

You can also use these forms at any time to tell us about a new water supply or give us information about an existing supply such as change of use or new contact details. 

Complete the Private Water Supply survey online

Private water supply uses

The majority of Cornwall’s private water supplies are used for human consumption. Private water supplies can be used for purely domestic purposes such as cooking and washing, or for large scale commercial operations such as farming or breweries.

Farming is an important industry in Cornwall and this has a potential impact on the quality of private water supplies.  Use of pesticides can affect water quality, as can the presence of livestock.

The geology of Cornwall also impacts on the quality of the groundwater.  High levels of manganese, iron and arsenic have all been recorded in water samples taken from private water supplies.

Ensuring clean, safe drinking water is the biggest concern and this is achieved in several ways including protecting the source and secondary treatment, such as filtration and disinfection.

Private Water Supplies Regulations 

Private water supplies are regulated by national legislation:

The Private Water Supplies Regulations require that all water intended for human consumption:

  • must be wholesome
  • and must not constitute a danger to human health.

The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016 require local authorities to:

  • carry out sampling at all supplies,
  • except those which serve only one domestic property which is owner occupied.

Frequency of sampling

Supplies which serve up to 50 people for purely domestic use need only be sampled once every five years.  Supplies which are used for commercial purposes including:

  • food businesses,
  • holiday lets,
  • tenanted,
  • cafes etc.

must be sampled at least once every year and more frequently if a high volume of water is used.

Under the regulations Cornwall Council is also required to carry out risk assessments on private water supplies. These risk assessments are undertaken by professionals who:

  • identify any vulnerability in the supply
  • and give advice on how best to protect the water source from contamination.  

To arrange a risk assessment, please fill in one of the following forms and return it to us, we will then contact you to arrange a visit.

Local Authorities have a duty to enforce these regulations, and this work is overseen by the Drinking Water Inspectorate

How often you need your water supply sampled depends on:

  • what the water supply is used for
  • and the volume of water being used.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate provides comprehensive guidance on how much water a supply provides and the amount of testing needed.

View the current Private Water Supplies fees and charges

Keeping your water supply safe

There are many things you can do to keep your water supply safe. Contamination from a variety of sources can occur potentially at any point throughout a water supply system if it is not robust and adequately protected. 

Leisure water

We recommend that leisure water facilities such as swimming pools, spa pools and hot tubs meet the requirements of the Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group.  

Mains water

If you are having issues with mains water you should initially visit the South West Water website or call 0344 346 2020 for assistance.  We can provide advice regarding mains water quality however would normally only do so once you have spoken to South West Water.

Rivers, streams and flooding

If you are concerned about the:

  • water quality of a river or stream,
  • or if you require information regarding flooding,

please contact your local Environment Agency office on 03708 506506.

Should you wish to report a water pollution incident or potential pollution issue, please contact the Environment Agency on 0800 807060.

Need help?

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