The quality of private water supplies in Scotland have often been derided as secondary to that of public supplies. Of course most of us could highlight an exception or two to such a claim, but it is with this presumption in mind that the Scottish Government is pushing ahead with its latest consultation: the draft Water Intended for Human Consumption (Private Supplies) (Scotland) Regulations 2017.
Motivation for the new regulations lies in a move to bring parity between the regularity obligations of the private and public sectors. The proposals in the consultation are primarily designed to reflect changes introduced by an EU Directive which needs to be transposed into domestic law by 27 October 2017. That EU Directive is aligned to the results and published guidelines of a World Health Organisation study which looked at the way drinking water was analysed and monitored.
While we firmly support the drive to provide safe healthy drinking water for all, we must be sure that any additional duties are not unduly burdensome and do not adversely affect estates’ ability to deliver affordable accommodation in rural Scotland. It is therefore heartening to know that the new regulations are intended to simplify the monitoring process through targeted regulation. But, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the devil is in the detail.
The proposals include provisions such as the creation of supply zones and introduces the concept of a “water supplier” who introduces the supply onto other land. The water supplier is responsible for providing a safe supply to the end user but only if that is for commercial or public purposes. Supply zones will be a “geographically defined area within which water intended for human consumption comes from one or more sources and water quality may be considered as being approximately uniform”. The zones will be the basis of monitoring programmes prepared and implemented by the enforcing authority.
It is concerning that the definition for a supply zone in the context of these regulations is still not clear. We do not know how the geographically area where water quality may be considered as “approximately uniform” will be defined. Given the highly technical nature of a variety of aspects involved in the monitoring of private water supplies, we feel it would be sensible to run a pilot of the supply zone before applying it more widely. Working through a trial run could prevent a deluge of claim and counter claim over the process and would allow local authorities and other stakeholders to better prepare for all eventualities.
The addition of the water supplier seems to add another layer of complexity to an already very technical process. New duties include a requirement to ensure that the water supplied to the premises meets the water quality standards at the point of compliance, and to prominently display information notices on sites that are used for commercial or public purposes.
These new set of regulations are aimed at large water supplies (any supplying water to more than 50 persons or providing more than 10m³ of water a day) and any supply used for commercial or public activity. However, the intention is to consult on further regulations for small supplies (those supplying less than 50 persons or providing less than 10m³ of water per day) later in the year.
If you think this consultation might affect you there is still time to make your submission, but you will have to be quick as the deadline for responses passes this Friday (July 28).