Helping Farmers to Keep Private Water Supplies Safe

10 Jul 2018

South West Water Business is urging farmers with alternative water supplies to make sure they carry out regular checks in order to maintain quality levels.

A private water supply is one which is not provided by a water wholesaler with many farmers finding that this offers them a way of reducing their use of mains water – helping them to significantly lower their bills.

The source of a private supply can be a well, borehole, spring, stream or a river or lake with farms often having previously-used sources of water from before the days of mains water that are easy to reinstate.

As well as saving money, livestock often prefer to drink from private water sources, which can abstract up to 20,000 litres of water a day without a licence in most areas.

However, private water supplies are not managed and tested in the same way as public supplies and it is up to the landowner to adhere to the drinking water regulations set out by Defra and the standards set down by other interested bodies, for example, dairy companies.

Possible contaminants to the water include bacteria, protozoa, parasites and viruses.  Regular testing is essential because the contamination does not necessarily impart a smell, taste or colour to the water.

To monitor the quality levels of private supplies, make sure that all parts of the supply, including the catchment area, are inspected regularly for any obvious problems.

 For supplies from springs, wells or boreholes, check that the water source is adequately protected to stop surface run off from the land getting into the supply, particularly at times of heavy rain. Check also that the bore hole is properly capped with the chamber above ground level and properly drained. Ensure that slurry is not spread on the land near or upstream of the source and that animals do not graze in the immediate vicinity. If there are high levels of minerals these should be filtered out along with pH correction removal of nitrates and the water chlorinated or UV treated to kill bacteria.

For supplies from streams, rivers, lakes or ponds, the collection arrangement should include a settlement pond to allow larger particles to settle before the water flows into any tank or pipes which make up the supply arrangements. The collection arrangement should also include either a sand or gravel filter after the settlement pond to remove organic material and small animals. As with boreholes, water should be filtered for minerals, nitrates and bacteria. Ensure that the water being collected is not contaminated by discharges from a septic tank or a waste water discharge upstream of the draw off point.

In addition, ensure all filters and sterilisers are serviced regularly, with chlorine reservoirs topped up and water troughs and tanks flushed frequently.

Finally, if you or your staff become aware of any changes in the water’s appearance or smell, call in an expert to test it immediately.

South West Water Business has expertise in investigating and installing alternative water sources from reinstating disused wells and drilling boreholes through to sampling water and installing filtration devices to make sure that water meets the quality required. For more information, telephone 0330 0415567.