Private water regulations now apply to a far wider range of properties than previously: all farms with residential property subject to agricultural tenancies and all directly let residential properties, are now covered.
Introduced in 2017, the Regulations set out the duty of local authorities to protect public health and to take samples of water from both tenanted and tied properties.
Consequently, local authorities are contacting many more agricultural landlords and tenants, who have been asking us to help them.
I thought it would be helpful to cover some of the questions we’re being asked most often, to help clarify things.
Firstly, the new regulations apply only to the old ‘Type A supplies’, which are now referred to as ‘Regulated Supplies’ and do not impact on exempt supplies, known as ‘Type B supplies’ in earlier legislation.
Exempt supplies are those which supply less than 10m3 of water per day (2200 gallons) or serve fewer than 50 people.
It’s difficult to imagine many farms using 2200 gallons of water a day, when the average domestic consumption is about 80 gallons a day.
So for most simple cases where the water supply serves a single farm and perhaps a couple of cottages, the only action required as a result of the new Regulation is to make sure that anyone using an exempt supply, is informed about this and also about how they can protect their health from any potential contamination of the supply.
However, if the water is supplied to any premise used for a commercial or public activity, such as holiday lets, the exemption does not apply and a Relevant Person must be identified.
In most agricultural situations there will be more than one Relevant Person and the guidance recommends they get together to agree on what action might be needed and how any costs should be shared. If the parties cannot agree on who the Relevant Person is, the Local Authority will decide.
The following examples might help to illustrate:
• A landowner on whose land the water source is situated, supplies water to two let and two owner-occupied cottages. The landowner is the Relevant Person for the let cottages, but the owners of the other cottages are also Relevant Persons.
• A tenanted farm has a private supply, the source of which is located on land within the tenancy but the supply infrastructure is part of the fixed equipment supplied by the landlord. Both the landlord and tenant are Relevant Persons. The tenant bears the primary responsibility for maintaining the quality of the water because they control the land around the water source.
• A tenanted farm has a private supply, the source of which is located on land owned by the landlord. Both landlord and tenant would be designated as Relevant Persons but as the landlord controls the land around the water source the primary responsibility for maintaining the quality of the water might rest with the landlord.
While there will be complex cases, the principle is that anyone who owns, controls or manages any part of the water supply infrastructure or the land from which the water comes, is likely to be a Relevant Person so a shared responsibility is to be the norm.
The Scotland’s Drinking Water Quality Regulator guidance is useful to read.