What should I do if my private water supply (spring, borehole, well, etc.) runs out in the UK?

Insufficiency of supply is where a property no longer has access to enough water for the purpose of human consumption. Human consumption includes washing, bathing, showering, laundry and toilet flushing. If a private water supply should become insufficient due to drought conditions, a relevant person(s) should refer to their contingency plan. Where a contingency plan is not yet in place, the relevant person(s) may seek advice from the local authority or the water company, but there is no obligation on either to provide an alternative supply of water except where the local authority considers the circumstances to pose a danger to life or human health. If you are based in the North of England, then Springhill Water may be able to carry out work that temporarily restores your supply. This assumes that the reason for the water running out is due to blocked pipes, leaking tanks/pipework, or other problems with the distribution system.  However, if there simply is insufficient water then the notes below may prove useful. If your private water supply: spring, borehole, well etc. is not sufficient during a dry spell, the first thing to do is use less water. Don’t leave your tap running when brushing your teeth. Don’t use the bath, have a shower instead. Don’t leave taps running unnecessarily. If you have rainwater, or a local water source, use this water for flushing the toilets. If your water supply looks like it is going to run out completely then should keep a supply of bottled water on hand. If possible, ask neighbours for help: If your water source is used is used to supply a business or if you have tenants, then you may need to contact a local farmer / agricultural specialist who might be able to provide a tanker/bowser full of water. In some areas, there are public health protection groups (contact your Environmental Health Office for details) who can supply water free of charge to help until you can arrange a more sustainable supply. Dependent on the water company, some will provide 30 litres of water person.  Please note, there are regulations that cover temporary water supplies and distribution networks. There may be some local agricultural specialists who can provide an emergency supply, but the water may not comply with the standards (BS 8551). If this is the case, do not use the water for drinking or cooking; it can be used to flush the toilets. If there are no alternative supplies or there is no one to put a plan into action then the local authority has the power to require, if practicable at a reasonable cost, the local water company to supply water (by means other than in pipes) for a specified period (for example, a supply of bottled water, or water supplied in tanks or bowsers). In this situation, the costs for providing the supply would be recoverable from the relevant person(s) to which the supply is provided. Where there is a risk of a supply becoming insufficient on a longer-term basis then under section 79 of the Act, the local authority must require the local water company to provide a wholesome water supply to the premises for a length of time that the local authority specifies. However, this would only apply if:
  • It is not practicable at a reasonable cost for the water company to provide a wholesome and sufficient piped supply.
  • the supply of water for domestic purposes is either of insufficient quantity or quality (unwholesome) such that it causes “a danger to life or health”, and
  • It is practicable at a reasonable cost for the water company to provide a supply of wholesome water for domestic purposes by means other than pipes (in bottles, tanks, bowsers, etc).
In the above situation, the water company would charge for providing these supplies, which are recoverable from the relevant person(s) to which the supply is provided.

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