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Poor plumbing causes one third of drinking water failures

One-third of drinking water quality failures are caused within customers' own homes, with poor plumbing and sub-standard fittings to blame, according to the annual report of the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) published today.

The regulator’s report said that the UK’s water supplies are among the healthiest in the world, with 99.96 per cent of samples tested passing stringent quality standards.

But of those that do fail, nearly a third can be attributed to deterioration after water has been transferred from public water mains into private pipes and properties, said the report. Lead, nickel, taste and odour are behind some of the failures and these are usually caused by the wrong materials and fittings being used or inadequate protection from water 'flowing back' into internal pipework from appliances, such as dishwashers.

WaterSafe, the national register for plumbers which is backed by the Drinking Water Inspectorate and all water companies in the UK, is urging homeowners and property managers to use approved plumbers to help keep drinking water supplies safe.

Plumbers on the WaterSafe register have specific training in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations and Byelaws, which are designed to keep water in the same safe and healthy condition it is supplied by water companies, and avoid the risk of contaminated water.

Marcus Rink, Chief Inspector of the DWI, said: "A skilled and competent plumber using approved materials provides confidence in water remaining wholesome right up to the tap. The use of a nationally registered plumber such as the WaterSafe scheme goes towards securing safe clean water for all, delivering the high quality of water we have come to expect.”

Each year thousands of samples of water are taken from reservoirs, water treatment works, pumping stations, water mains and customers’ taps by water companies. These are tested in laboratories to monitor for a range of substances, including metals, pesticides and naturally-occurring bacteria which are measured against standards set by the World Health Organisation.

The most recent prosecution undertaken by the DWI against a water company was March 2015, when Sembcorp Bournemouth Water had to pay £73,000 in fines and costs over the detection of cryptosporidium in the water supply.

Author: James Brockett,
Topic: Drinking water quality
Tags: drinking water , Water supply

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