TFC blog: Regulations on private water – queries tackled

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.Bob - portrait NEW

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.

Internship creates a road to somewhere

The Land Commission’s work programme covers a wide range of issues – everything from land value tax to community ownership – and as part of that we’re looking to the academic community in Scotland to help us gather evidence, spark debate and develop new approaches to make the most of Scotland’s land.  We recently funded an internship to create an interactive map identifying land owned and managed for non-profit purposes in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire, which might help to support local community ventures.  This is a move by North Highland Initiative (NHI) to encourage community projects to build on the increased numbers of visitors and interest in the area due to the success of the North Coast 500.  The Commission approached Adopt an Intern who were able to place Sam Mackinnon to the internship.

Here Sam blogs about the work he did for the Land Commission and his experience of the internship:


Late last year the Scottish Land Commission asked me to create a new resource for local community organisations operating in the north Highlands. The aim of the project was to produce a map illustrating all the land operated for non-profit purposes in the region that could be used for economic development planning. The stimulus for this was the new and successful North Coast 500 route launched by the North Highland Initiative: now that more tourists than ever were flowing through Ross-shire, Sutherland and Caithness, something had to be done to enable communities to capture all the economic potential of this.  The final product of this project will allow communities to see what public resources are available for them to harness.

Undertaking this project was a rewarding experience for me both personally and professionally.

Personally, because I grew up in the Outer Hebrides, a place similarly fighting economic and population decline. I am even more conscious of this as I myself am evidence of the problem, having lived for the past 5 years between Aberdeen and Glasgow. This background has fuelled my interests in urbanisation and my concern about rural decline. Being given a real opportunity to address these issues is fulfilling and something I am grateful for.

Professionally, as even despite my limited experience in this area, after being provided with the overall aims I was trusted to plan, organise and execute the project with complete independence. This level of responsibility made it enjoyable but also increased my capacity to learn, taking up new useful tools, ways of working and presenting information that I never would have thought of doing otherwise.

Especially beneficial was that the internship required me to learn how to use Geographic Information Systems software, often used for economic analysis and planning across different geographic environments. This is something that I have since introduced into my daily work as a full-time researcher at a Glasgow-based think tank, where I have also been carrying research into land economics in Scotland and Europe.

Overall, I have been made a better researcher thanks to this project. Now I hope that communities in the north Highlands can benefit from the new resource available to them just as I have benefitted from being given the opportunity to create it.