Regulation of Drinking Water
In England and Wales the main responsibility for ensuring our drinking water is clean and “wholesome” lies with the water companies, which supply it. The standards they must meet are set out in the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2000, derived from the current EU Drinking Water Directive. Wessex Water and to a lesser degree South West Water report annually to the Council on the results of their monitoring and inform them of any event that may be a health risk to the people living in the area.
In terms of major incidents concerning drinking water, the Council would be asked to represent the Incident Control team when such events occur, and also in Outbreak Control Teams if any outbreak of human disease results.
At a national level, the Environment Agency is the government body responsible for making sure that the quality of water resources does not deteriorate and that it is improved when necessary. The Drinking Water Inspectorate, part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, oversees the quality of public and private drinking water supplies.
At a local level, West Somerset Council is responsible under the Water Industry Act 1991 for keeping itself informed about the wholesomeness and sufficiency of water supplies in their area. Because water is a basic requirement for any property, the housing section also has powers under the Housing Act 2004 particularly in respect of single properties lacking a sufficient and wholesome water supply.
The Environmental Health team play a key role in protecting local water quality. As well as occasionally sampling from the public water supplies from time to time, the Environmental Health team are responsible for identifying and checking hundreds of private water supplies, big and small, under the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016. Where problems with such supplies are discovered, we will work with those who provide them to ensure that the water is improved. If necessary, the team can take legal action to achieve this.