Private water supplies


What is a private water supply?

A private water supply is defined as a water supply which is not provided by Scottish Water. This is normally because a property is in a rural and remote location where a mains water network is not available.

Private water supply sources can include:

  • stream
  • loch
  • spring
  • burn
  • pond
  • borehole
  • rainwater collection

In Highland many premises, both private and commercial, get their water from a private supply. The supply may serve only one property or several different properties. In Highland, we have approximately 2560 private water supplies serving over 10,000 inhabitants and many more visitors.


Private water supplies can be vulnerable to contamination that may cause waterborne infections or other ill effects.

Contamination can be caused by:

  • bacteria: such as from faecal matter in human sewerage or from animal droppings,
  • chemicals: such as fertilizer or pesticide run-off from fields, and deterioration of distribution pipe work (for example; lead, copper, nickel or zinc)
  • natural sources: such as soils and rocks (for example; iron, manganese, and radon)

Types of private water supplies

There are two types of supplies defined in the Regulations and both are required to meet water quality standards.

Regulated Supplies

Regulated Supplies are larger supplies (serving over 50 or more persons) or supplies that have a commercial or public activities usage irrespective of size. There are regulated by the Water Intended for Human Consumption (Private Supplies) (Scotland) 2017. These supplies serve premises of a commercial or public nature and include holiday lets, hotels, schools, food businesses, factories, sports centres, B&B's, campsites, village halls and domestic let property (including private landlords and Social Landlords such as Housing Associations)

A Regulated supply must be sampled and analysed for a wide range of parameters at least once a year by the Council for which a fee is charged.

An information notice and copy of the latest water quality test results are also required to be displayed. You can request an information notice by emailing

A Regulated supply must carry out a Risk Assessment of the supply at least once in every 5 years and more frequently if changes occur. This risk assessment provides information to owners and users regarding any actions to be taken to improve the supply and reduce any risks to human health that may arise from its use.

We charge a fee for risk assessments.

Type B Supplies (Exempt)

Supplies serving only domestic premises with less than 50 persons in total supplied. There are regulated by the Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006.

A Type B/Exempt supply is required to comply with a limited range of parameters that are defined in the regulations and do not form part of our statutory sampling or risk assessment programme. We will carry out sampling or risk assessments on request and this is a chargeable service.

Further information about private water supplies can be found at the following:


All private water supplies must be registered with us and we are continually updating our existing register. The register of private supplies may be shared with other public bodies such as Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to ensure that the water quality of these supplies is not compromised by agricultural or forestry activities, new developments or pollution incidents.

We may also from time to time contact you with relevant information should legislation change. It is also essential that we are able to contact everyone who may be using a supply in the event a problem occurs. 

To register download this form, and return it by post or email to