In this article the water quality specialists at Water Treatment Services look at why an expert water quality report is as essential as a building survey when buying or selling a property that uses a private water supply.
The article starts by explaining what a private water supply is, and then goes on to consider who would benefit from a detailed water report, what’s involved in the process and why determining water quality is important when buying or selling property on this type of supply.
Do you need a water report if you’re buying or selling a property on a private water supply?
Most people in the UK use water that comes from the public water supply. It’s not something you think about if you’ve always done this. However, some properties receive their water supplies from a private source. In some cases, a single property might be connected to a private water supply. In others, there could be multiple properties using the same private water supply.
However, in every case, if you are buying or selling a property that uses a private water supply, you, your mortgage lender, solicitors and surveyors will want to know what is involved with the water supply, whether it comes from a sustainable source, and whether it’s safe to use. There are certain requirements that must be met by the property owner and seller, so regardless of which side of the sale you are on, you should know more about water reports, private water supply regulations and their requirements.
What is a private water supply?
A private water supply, often abbreviated to PWS, relates to any source of water that isn’t supplied by a water company. Approximately 1% of the water supplied in England and Wales is provided via a PWS. The supply could be drawn from a natural body of water such as a lake or spring. It could also come from a borehole, well or similar structure.
Depending on the situation, the water may be supplied direct from source or taken through pipework to sit in storage tanks until it is used.
Does a private water supply require a risk assessment?
Whether a private supply needs a risk assessment or not depends on the number of dwellings supplied by that water source. Single dwellings in England and Wales do not need a risk assessment unless tenants are renting the property. The risk assessment is then done to ensure the tenants have a safe supply of water to use. If the homeowner lives there, it’s not necessary for a risk assessment to occur unless the homeowner asks for one to be completed. The risk assessment is undertaken by the local authority.
Waterborne bacteria that may be present in a private water supply include E. coli, enterococci and coliforms so it’s important to know what’s in yours …
In cases where two or more properties use the same private water supply, the local authority will always conduct a risk assessment. This should be repeated every five years, unless there is a reason to conduct another one earlier than that.
In the case of Scotland, where rules vary slightly, each local council has a register of all properties that use a private water supply. This makes it easier for prospective buyers to check whether a property using a private supply is registered and has a safe supply of water. Local councils are responsible for testing the water, and there may be a fee for this.
Local authorities also keep records of such supplies in England and Wales. These should be kept for at least 30 years according to current rules. It means there should be historical data relating to a property if it is required.
Why is it important to test water quality from a private source?
A sample taken from the water supply can be tested to determine its contents. In some cases, a contaminated private water supply may have an unusual taste, smell or appearance that could alert the property owner or tenant to an issue. In other cases, though, there could be contaminants that can only be found via testing the water.
For example, some samples may contain bugs or bacteria that are too small to be seen with the naked eye. While it is common for water to contain chemicals and other elements, these should always be within safe levels. Assuming the property is a private dwelling, it will be tested for a smaller range of chemicals, bugs, and other elements than if it were a public building such as a hotel or other commercial enterprise.
Regarding the waterborne bacteria that may be present, typical examples could include E. coli, enterococci and coliforms, which should always be within safe levels – in the case of these three organisms the maximum levels allowed in UK drinking water is 0 per 100ml of water. If the water is not tested, it would be impossible to know whether this is the case.
If you own a property that uses a private supply for its water and you intend to sell it, it is sensible to obtain an expert water report to confirm what’s in the water and whether it is safe to use. This may be required when you sell the property, as prospective buyers, their mortgage lenders, including banks and building societies, solicitors and surveyors will want to know they’re buying or lending on a home with a safe and sustainable water supply. If this is not the case, there could be costs involved in rectifying the issues – costs that should be borne by the seller rather than the buyer.
Who should you contact to carry out the water testing?
You should contact a reputable contractor with experience in testing water samples to carry out the analysis work on your behalf. You must make sure laboratories have suitable UKAS accreditation to complete the testing work. It is best to allow time for the samples to be taken and tested, before a water report is completed. Depending on workload, this can sometimes take several weeks.
If you are thinking of buying a property that uses a private supply of water, you can request to see a water report from the seller detailing the nature and water quality provided by the private water supply. This water report should include results of testing to ensure the supply is safe for domestic use, including for drinking purposes.
If you are in Scotland, you can check with the local council to confirm whether the private water supply being used is registered with them, as it should be. You can also make sure it has been risk assessed and when this took place.
You should also be able to find out whether any remedial work has been recommended in the past, and whether it was completed. Details of any water treatments that have been applied should also be available. All this information gives you more guidance on whether the property has a reliable and safe water system.
From the point of view of selling your property, an expert water quality report reassures a potential buyer, especially if they have never bought a property with a private water supply before. From the point of view of buying a property, the would-be purchaser, their mortgage lender, solicitor and surveyor will have more confidence that the water supply is safe and reliable.
While only around 1% of properties rely on private water supplies, those supplies must be proven to be safe for domestic use. Water testing is a key part of making sure this happens.
Water quality testing and analysis for private water supplies
Water Treatment Services offer a comprehensive range of water quality testing and analysis solutions to support land and property owners, and managers of private water supplies from sources including boreholes, wells, surface water, and groundwater. Our specialists can provide advice and support to help you determine water quality standards are being met, and prepare expert water reports for property transactions.
With offices in London serving the South and South East England, Manchester (North West), Birmingham (Midlands), Bristol (South East England and Wales), Leeds (North and North East) and Glasgow (Scotland), supported by regional teams of specially trained technicians, in-field specialists and consultants we can offer professional, cost effective laboratory analysis and water reporting solutions across the whole of the UK and internationally.
Contact us today to learn how our water quality analysis and reporting solutions can help you.