This advice is for prospective buyers of properties or homes, which have a Private Water Supply (PWS) used for domestic purposes in North Norfolk.

Buying a property with a Private Water Supply

This advice is for prospective buyers of properties or homes, which have a PWS used for domestic purposes in North Norfolk. Domestic purposes includes drinking, washing, bathing and showering, washing of laundry, toilet flushing and central heating.

What is a private water supply?

  • In north Norfolk, is any water supply that is not provided by Anglian Water; i.e. it is not a mains supply. There are about 450 such supplies in our district.
  • May be a well, borehole, spring, stream, river, lake or pond. Most of those in North Norfolk are supplied via a borehole or well.
  • May serve just one property or several properties through a network of pipes. It includes the source and any associated equipment up to the point(s) of consumption. Private water supply arrangements vary. They may serve only a single property, or 2 or more properties, which may or may not include domestic properties.
  • Are regulated by local authorities according to these regulations; The Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016 and The Private Water Supplies (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2018.
  • Used exclusively for purposes other than those for domestic purposes, such as irrigation or watering of livestock do not fall under these regulations.

Single properties where the water is used as part of a commercial or public activity may also fall under these regulations. These include those where the water is used as an ingredient of a food or drink that is sold to the public (e.g. where the property is used, or is intended to be used, in part as a tea shop), or where the property is being rented to a tenant or tenants.

What does having a private water supply mean to a home owner?

Our Private water supplies leaflet fully explains how the law affects people who own or use private water supplies.

The following factsheets provide information about the most likely problems to affect a private water supply:

  • The Microbiological Failure page contains information about bacteria in private water supplies and what to do if your sample contains potentially harmful bacteria
  • The Nitrate and Nitrite page contains information about these chemicals in private water supplies and what to do to reduce excessive levels in the water.
  • The Iron and Manganese page contains information about these chemicals in private water supplies and what to do to reduce excessive levels in the water.

These notes are a summary for prospective buyers of properties.

Any private water supply used for domestic purposes that supplies 2 or more properties must be risk assessed every 5 years, and regularly tested in accordance with the regulations by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC). The frequency of testing will depend on the supply type.

If a supply provides water for domestic purposes to only a single property, then the regulations do not require a risk assessment or testing unless:

  • It is requested by the owner or occupier of the property.
  • The property is in England, is being rented to tenants and meets the criteria for testing and risk assessment as set out in the document Information note on Regulation 9.
  • NNDC believes there to be a risk to health.

If there are no risk assessment and or test results available on any property served by private water supplies you cannot tell if the quality of water complies with the regulations, and/or is a risk to health. Prospective buyers should ask for copies of the last risk assessment and test results. These will give an indication of the quality of the supply, as well as highlighting any areas of concern that may require remediation, as well as any ongoing costs expenditure.

If the copies of the last risk assessment and test results are not available, you may want to ask NNDC to carry out a risk assessment or sampling. Please be aware there is a fee for these services and it may delay your purchase.

Where a supply serves multiple properties NNDC collect one sample per supply for analysis on each visit (they are not required to take samples from every property on the supply each time).

Prospective buyers of property should check the property deeds to familiarise themselves with any legally binding agreements with other parties about the responsibility for the control and maintenance of the supply. Buyers should also seek legal advice about their interpretation and/or potential owner liability should any water quality issue arise or in the event of the supply becoming insufficient. 

Once a property with a private water supply (for domestic purposes) is purchased, the owner becomes a relevant person, according to Section 80 of The Water Industry Act 1991. The potential implications are detailed types of private water supplies and the implications to you.

What questions do I need to ask?

This is a list of questions a purchaser of property supplied by a private water supply should ask. They may be put to the vendor of the property (through a solicitor or estate agent), or NNDC, to find out if the water quality meets the required standards and if there is any future cost liability.

Please note that NNDC cannot release information without the permission of the existing owner of the supply.

  • Has a risk assessment already been carried out by NNDC, and if so when, and what was the outcome?
  • Did NNDC advise improvement works were required?
  • If improvement works were required, have the risks since been remediated?
  • What were the results of any previous sampling by NNDC?
  • Did any results indicate a water quality problem and/or risk to health?
  • Is there any water treatment within the property such as filters or UV disinfection units?
  • Is the treatment appropriate and effective (you could ask the current owner for evidence that the system was fitted by a reputable and competent installer).
  • Is the system compliant with Regulation 5?
  • Is the UV system (where applicable) designed for use on drinking water supplies and sized appropriately?
  • Has the current owner any maintenance logs or records for the supply?
  • Have there been any water quality issues with the supply such as taste and odour, discolouration/appearance or insufficiency.
  • Are there any documented instructions about what to do if any problems arise with the supply, e.g. sufficiency or water quality such as taste or odour issues. These should contain telephone numbers or other contact details to arrange for alternative supplies, pipe repairs, treatment system maintenance etc.
  • Is there a diagram of the supply available showing the layout of pipes, tanks, inspection chambers etc?
  • Is there a plan of the various parts of the treatment system available stating what each part is; for example, any filters, iron or manganese removal systems, and disinfection?

Prospective buyers may also wish to read UV households if the property has or requires a UV treatment system.