This section provides useful information about the relevant water pollution and quality standard regulators within England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
England and Wales
The Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales
The Environment Agency (EA) is responsible for dealing with water pollution incidents in England. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is responsible for this in Wales. EA and NRW seek to prevent or reduce the risk of water pollution and to ensure that pollution incidents are cleaned up as quickly as possible. They carry out enforcement actions against companies and other businesses that cause water pollution. They are also responsible for maintaining and improving fresh, marine, surface and underground waters within the region.
The Water Industry Act 1991 requires local authorities to monitor the wholesomeness and adequacy of water supplies within their areas. Many local authorities routinely conduct sampling programmes of main supplies to determine if the supplies are safe for consumption and recreation. Some of the sampling tests are conducted in response to consumers’ complaints. Water suppliers must also annually report to local authorities and notify them of any matter that may be harmful to public health. Where a local authority considers water supplies to be harmful or inadequate, it must notify the water supplier who would be required to take appropriate action to address the problem.
Drinking Water Inspectorate
The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) is responsible for regulating the quality of drinking water supplies within England and Wales.
- Assesses and monitors drinking water quality.
- Requires water suppliers to submit to it monthly quality data reports.
- Inspections of water sampling processes.
- When necessary, it will require water suppliers to implement schemes that improve drinking water quality.
- Works with local authorities to ensure public drinking water supplies is not harmful to human health.
- Undertake enforcement actions if standards are not met
Water companies have enforcement powers under the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Fittings Regulations 1999 to deal with waste and contamination arising from the installation and maintenance of plumbing systems, water fitting and other water using appliances. All installations must comply with the conditions laid down by the regulations.
Water companies have the powers to inspect new and existing installations to see that they have been properly installed in line with the regulations. If a plumbing system or water fittings have been installed incorrectly, the water company can require an owner, occupier or anyone to correct the breach. It may also disconnect water supplies to premises, if the installation poses a risk to human health. It is a criminal offence to install plumbing appliances or water fitting in breach of the regulations and offenders may face prosecution.
It is worth checking with your local water supplier what requirements must be met under the regulations, before you attempt any DIY plumbing installation. If you employ someone else to carry out the installation, ensure you use an approved plumber.
- The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS)
- The WRAS provides the text of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations and their schedules. It also provides the Government Guidance document relating to the schedules and WRAS water regulations guide.
- Contact: The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) Fern Close, Pen-y-Fan Industrial Estate, Oakdale, Gwent, NP11 3EH.
- Tel: 01495248454.
- WRAS is funded by UK water suppliers to provide advisory service for Water Regulations.
- Local Water Suppliers
- You can get the contact details of your local water supplier from the local telephone book or from the WRAS website.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
SEPA is responsible for regulating and protecting Scotland's marine, coastal, surface and ground waters. It is also regulates water pollution incidents that occur in Scottish waters. SEPA has developed water classification schemes based on EU requirements for coastal waters, estuaries, rivers, lochs and groundwater. Each scheme provides means of defining the current quality of the water environment in Scotland.
The Drinking Water Quality Regulator (DWQR)
The DWQR was established by the Water Industry (Scotland) Act 2002. The DWQR regulates drinking water quality in Scotland. It routinely audits Scottish Water laboratories and water treatment works to ensure that drinking water provided to the public is safe to use. The DWQR has a wide range of powers including the right to conduct investigations and take enforcement action against Scottish Water should it fail to comply with the drinking water quality regulations.
The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO)
The SPSO handles complaints about Scottish Water that it has not been able to resolve internally. Visit the SPSO website for more information.
Consumer Focus Scotland
Consumer Focus Scotland represents Scotland’s water consumers, as well as seeking to shape policy on the Scottish water industry.
Find below the environmental regulators for the water environment in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency
It is an offence to cause water pollution either deliberately or accidently. If the source of pollution is traced, the operations team within NIEA will take enforcement action against the person that has caused the water pollution. Any person found guilty of causing water pollution may be required to pay the cost of cleanup operations, courts costs and compensation to angling clubs if the pollution results in fish loss.
Other Powers of the NIEA
- Monitors water quality
- Preparing water quality management plans
- Issues discharge consents for effluent discharges
The Drinking Water Inspectorate (the 'Inspectorate')
The inspectorate regulates drinking water quality in Northern Ireland. Its main powers are contained in the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007 and the Private Water Supplies Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1994.
- Regulates drinking water quality in Northern Ireland.
- Assesses drinking water quality against regulatory standards.
- Detailed inspections of water sampling and analytical processes, and assesses water treatment and distribution policies and practices.
- Publishes an annual report containing an overview of drinking water quality in Northern Ireland.
- Develops policy and regulation on drinking water issues.
- Deals with complaints from consumers and incidents which affect or could affect drinking water quality.
The Consumer Council
The Consumer Council is the independent consumer representative body for water services in Northern Ireland. If you are unhappy about your water or sewage services, first use the grievance procedure offered by the Northern Ireland Water. If you are still not satisfied with their response, you can contact the Consumer Council who will be able to take up this complaint on your behalf.