The Regulators' view on domestic plumbing

Drinking water quality regulators across the UK have highlighted issues with private plumbing in their annual reports.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), overseeing water supply quality in England and Wales, issues regular reports looking at drinking water quality at a national level from the perspective of the Chief Inspector of drinking water.

From 2016, the DWI has been issuing quarterly reports, as well as an annual summary, to inform water companies, other stakeholders and consumers of issues being identified across the water industry. These reports have highlighted issues on private plumbing.

Marcus Rink, The Chief Inspector of the DWI, said:

"Consumers need to be aware of the risks associated with poor household plumbing and sub-standard fixtures and fittings when it comes to the quality of their tap water." 1

"Just over 24% of failures in 2016 were attributed to consumers' domestic systems." 2

In the report covering the period July – September 2016 DWI reviewed the risk assessments undertaken by water companies to assess the hazards being identified, and the residual risk associated with consumers’ plumbing systems. The DWI is concerned that across the industry there is considerable work needed to mitigate fully the risks which lead to failures within the consumer’s plumbing systems.

The DWI also reminded the water industry that a long-term strategy is needed to mitigate risks within consumers’ plumbing systems. These should include a long-term lead strategy, working with other stakeholders such as the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) on the approval of products and materials and training, education and certification of those working in the domestic water sector. The Chief Inspector also advised that part of ensuring the safety of consumers’ plumbing systems is encouraging water companies to advise their customers to use reputable plumbers.

You can read the DWI reports, including the latest annual summary that was published on 13 July 2017 on the DWI’s website.

Scotland’s Drinking Water Quality Regulator (DWQR) considers compliance with the water byelaws to be essential for minimising the risk of contamination of drinking water and they support the measures taken by Scottish Water to resolve instances of water byelaws contraventions.

Sue Petch, the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland, said:

"I urge householders to always employ a reputable plumber. The use of a nationally registered plumber with schemes such as WaterSafe and SNIPEF, The Scotland and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers Federation, go a long way towards securing safe, clean water for all, delivering the high quality of water we have come to expect." 3

DWQR published their annual report on 27 July 2017 on DWQR’s website.

Northern Ireland’s own Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) in their annual report also reminds there is a need to ensure consumers’ internal plumbing is compliant with Water Fittings Regulations. They too found a similar percentage of the failures at consumers’ taps were due to the internal plumbing within domestic properties.

Catriona Davis, the Chief Inspector of the Drinking Water Inspectorate for Northern Ireland, said:

"A skilled and competent plumber using approved materials provides confidence in water remaining wholesome right up to the tap." 4

DWI for Northern Ireland published their report on 17 August 2017 on DAREA’s website.

References

1 https://www.watersafe.org.uk/news/latest_news/household_plumbing_tap_water_failures/

2Summary of the Chief Inspector’s report for drinking water in England

3 https://www.watersafe.org.uk/news/latest_news/scotland_household_plumbing/

4 https://www.watersafe.org.uk/news/latest_news/homeowners_in_northe/