Drinking water standards
Making sure your water is clean and safe to drink is our number one priority.
If you'd like to learn more about what we do to make sure that Yorkshire has a supply of clean, high quality drinking water, and why fresh water is such an important part of a healthy diet, please take a look below.
Alternatively, you can start by downloading our 2019/20 drinking water quality leaflet that explains the latest drinking water standards.
Testing the water we supply
How do you ensure the water supply is clean and safe?
We ensure all the water we supply for normal domestic purposes, such as drinking, washing, cooking, central heating and cleaning meets the government’s high standards. We take thousands of samples from the supply system and from customers’ taps for testing. The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) then independently assesses the results from these tests and issues a report each year on its findings.
We continually monitor water from our 55 treatment plants to ensure that it meets the standards. Regular samples are taken from our 359 service reservoirs, where treated water is stored, and from customers' taps.
Samples are analysed for the substances listed in the standards. Typically over 500,000 tests are carried out each year together with many more operational checks, using state-of-the-art technology and laboratory techniques.
What happens during a water quality inspection?
One of our field technicians will investigate the quality of water in your home. To try to find the problem, we may need to ask you questions, inspect the plumbing inside your home, inspect your stop tap outside, look at the water supplies outside of your property and, if needed, take some samples.
Sometimes, after a field technician has inspected all of these, they may find out that the problem lies with the plumbing inside your home. Unfortunately, if this is the case we’re not responsible for solving the problem and it will be down to you as the homeowner. However, we’ll advise you as much as we can.
1. We won't keep you for long - Our sampling will only take between 5 and 10 minutes to carry out.
2. Find your water - We collect samples from the cold tap in your kitchen. We’ll run the tap for a short period.
3. How much water do we use? - The average cost of the water has been measured at less than 4p for each sampling visit.
4. Testing times - We take the samples to our laboratory to analyse them. Test results can take up to 20 working days.
5. What happens next? - Most samples collected meet quality standards. For any that don’t, we’ll be in touch to arrange further investigations.
Download our full guide of top tips here
How we carry out our sampling
We collect samples from the cold tap in your kitchen. We will run the tap for a short amount of time to allow us to sample fresh water.
Before taking any samples, we need to make sure there are no bacteria in the tap which could affect the result. To do this, we squirt a diluted bleach solution into the spout of the tap. We then run the tap again before taking more samples. Don’t worry, we make sure the water is run thoroughly afterwards to get rid of the solution and make sure the water is as it was before our visit.
Sometimes, the results from samples need further investigation. In this instance we will be in touch.
These results are mostly due to bacteria that suggest the quality of water is not as high as it should be. They aren’t always harmful but finding them in drinking water may be a sign of possible environmental contamination.
Normally there is nothing to worry about and you can carry on using your tap as you usually would. We’ll then give you any advice you might need.
What to expect next
If you’ve reported an illness linked to a stomach upset, we’ll contact you by telephone the next working day after we’ve collected the sample and tell you about your initial test results relating to water quality.
For all water quality inspection samples, we’ll provide the results in writing. Please allow us 15 working days to receive and check the results of the sample test and a further 5 working days for you to receive the letter.
Does water quality vary?
The taste, colour and hardness of your water depends on the source of water supply. Tap in your postcode on our water hardness page to see where your water comes from and how hard or soft it is – very useful if you’re buying a new washing machine or even tea bags.
In a few cases, iron pipes can rust, causing sediment to build up in the supply network. This isn’t harmful, but if the normal flow of water is disturbed, for example by a nearby burst, it may make your water look discoloured. If this happens, run the tap for a few minutes to allow the supply to clear. If this doesn’t help, please contact us and we’ll investigate the problem for you.
Where does the water supply come from?
Half of the water we supply comes from reservoirs, and the rest from rivers and boreholes. The Grid – a network of large pipes across the region – allows us to transport water from these sources for treatment and then on to where it’s needed.
We’re continuing to invest heavily in pipes, pumping stations and leakage control to further improve the reliability of water supplies.
If you need to run-off water because of discolouration and your charges are based upon your metered water usage, please let us know as you may be entitled to an allowance against your bill.
How do you control water flow?
We normally maintain a water flow of at least 22 litres per minute (4.9 gallons per minute), if the supply serves a single property. This is measured at the boundary of the street in which the main is laid. If the supply pipe serves more than one property, we’ll maintain a greater flow, in line with water industry guidelines, depending on the number of houses supplied.
What if I'm not happy with the water flow?
If the flow of water from the downstairs tap is less than 12 litres per minute, we’ll investigate and carry out any work needed on our pipework for free. If you’re still unhappy with the flow, we’ll offer advice about any work needed on your supply pipe. You or your landlord, and the owners of any other properties served by the pipe, will be responsible for repairing or replacing it.
Who controls the amount of water you take from the environment?
Where we need to take water from rivers, impounding reservoirs and boreholes, we apply to the Environment Agency (EA) for abstraction licences.
If you have a query about water abstraction, you may contact the EA for their advice.
Water pressure and flow
Water pressure at your property depends on our pumping arrangements, the demand for water placed upon our network and the difference in height between our supply source and your property. The flow of water is the rate at which it comes out of the tap.
The size and condition of the communication and supply pipe to your property, and the number of water appliances you use at the same time, may also affect water pressure and flow.
How do you control water pressure?
The pressure standard prescribed by the Water Supply and Sewerage Services Regulations 2008 is ‘7 metres head’ in the communication pipe serving any property. The communication pipe connects your supply pipe to our water main.
This means that there should be sufficient pressure for water to rise and reach a storage tank in the roof void of a typical dwelling. Another way to look at this is that the water flow should be sufficient to fill a 4.5 litre or 1 gallon container within 30 seconds.
We therefore normally supply water to reach the top storey of every building. Sometimes we can’t do this during periods of high demand, especially if your property is too close to the level of the service reservoir. In this case, you may need to install a storage tank capable of storing 24 hours’ supply of water.
How we conserve water
As part of our water resources management plan, we implement initiatives to conserve water and we encourage and help our customers to do the same.
In fact, we’ve a legal responsibility to promote water efficiency by our customers. For example, we:
- Offer a free meter option scheme for domestic customers
- Improve efficiency by reducing leakage; you can help by calling our freephone Leakline on 0800 57 35 53, if you notice a water leak.
- Offer free supply pipe repairs for domestic customers, subject to certain terms and conditions.
- Promote the use of water-efficient appliances, facilities and practices in the home and garden.
- Work to increase water recycling and minimise waste in the home and garden, through advice such as how to re-use washing up water and through offers such as low-cost water butts.
Free Water Saving Pack
We’re giving away thousands of water saving packs to help our customers save water in their homes.
• Flushsaver - Saves 1.2 litres everytime you flush, that's around 5,000 litres a year.
• Showersave - Regulate your shower to just 8 litres of hot water a minute.
• Tap Inserts - Reduce the flow of water from your taps by up to 70%.
• Shower Timer - Spend 1 minute less in the shower and save up to £100 a year.
Your water quality
Where can I get details of water quality in my area?
To find out what's in your water, take a look at our in your area page and enter your postcode into the search box to bring up all the information you need to know.
Making sure everyone has safe, great tasting drinking water is part of our blueprint for Yorkshire, to download our guide click here.
What if my water supply uses lead pipes?
Although none of our mains are made of lead, many older properties still have lead plumbing and pipework leading from our mains which may cause traces of lead to appear in the water. If you’re concerned about this, we can test a sample of your water supply. We’ll replace any lead pipes in our part of the supply from the water main to the stop tap at the boundary of your property free of charge, once we’ve received a written request from you confirming you are prepared to remove your lead supply pipe. This is the pipe that runs from the boundary of the property to the point of entry into the building.
Grants may be available for replacing pipes. Please contact your Local Authority before you start work.
What if there’s a water quality problem?
If we find a problem that might affect your health, we’ll advise everyone in the affected area what to do. This may mean boiling water before use, or in exceptional cases, not using it until we’ve carried out further tests. We’ll normally deliver a letter containing this advice to each affected property.
We’ll also notify the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), the Consumer Council for Water, Local Authority environmental health departments and Public Health England (PHE).
What if I'm concerned about my drinking water?
If you’re concerned about your drinking water, please contact us so we can investigate the problem. If appropriate, we’ll take samples for analysis and let you know the results. If you complain of illness which may be related to water quality, we’ll try to visit you on the same day to take a sample and we’ll let you know the results within 5 working days.
Problems with my water supply
If you're experiencing any type of water supply problems such as low pressure, dirty or cloudy water, please take a look at our help and advice section.
Alternatively, if you want to find out whether there is any planned work or incidents in your area, please take a look at our what's in your water page.Check your area
What we're doing to improve your water supply
We're currently upgrading water treatment works and renovating our water distribution network to reduce the risk of discoloured water and to reduce leakage. This will bring further improvements and benefits to you and our environment.
For the period 2015 - 2020 we've allocated £110 million to help create some of the best beaches and cleanest bathing water in Europe. By working together in partnership with other organisations we aim to secure the highest possible water quality standard at Yorkshire's 20 designated bathing beaches. Bathing water quality in the region is already very high, but new European standards are raising the bar.
Why do we need to upgrade the water mains?
We have spent nearly £7 million over the last 5 years (2010-2015) to link the East Coast up to our Yorkshire Grid which enables us to transport drinking water around the region to where it’s needed most – whatever the weather!
Some of this vast network of pipes was laid in Victorian times so there are always pipes in need of attention. Natural deposits caused by internal corrosion can form on the inside of the pipes over time. Sometimes these deposits can lead to discoloured water and a build up of deposits can result in restricted flow and reduced water pressure.
By replacing weak pipes we provide you with a more reliable, top quality drinking water supply, with fewer bursts and leaks in the future.
How do we improve the water mains?
We use the following techniques (or a combination of them!) to make sure our pipes are up to scratch:
Replacing pipes - If the water mains pipes are beyond repair we replace them with new, more durable plastic pipes. If your property is to be served by the new main, a service pipe will be laid to the boundary of your property.
Cleaning the pipes - If the pipes are in good condition we simply clean them to remove the natural deposits that can cause your water to be discoloured.
Relining existing pipes - If the pipes are in poor condition once we've cleaned them we reline them with a protective resin. Once the lining is hardened, the mains pipe is disinfected and we take samples of the water as soon as the pipe is put back in use to make sure it's safe.
Delivering key projects -
We're working all over Yorkshire to make sure you've got tip top quality water. Take a look at some of our larger projects that will be delivered between 2015 & 2020:
- £8million in West Stonesdale, Richmondshire
- £15m at our Rivelin Water Treatment Works (WWTW) which is situated south west of Sheffield on the edge of the Peak District National Park. This works is on the very edge of our water grid network and provides fresh drinking water for a population of approximately 104,000 customers.
- £11m at our Langsett WTW which lies on the edge of the northern boundary of the Peak District National Park in South Yorkshire. Langsett WTW was built in 1983 and currently supplies 200,000 customers in Barnsley and Sheffield.
- £6m at Irton WTW, near Scarborough. The quality of the raw water that arrives from the borehole has deteriorated and we need to add more treatment processes at Irton to make sure we continue to supply high quality drinking water to our local customers.
Refurbishing our old lead pipes
Thousands of homes in Yorkshire will soon see their lead water supply pipes refurbished to comply with European regulations.
Between now and March 2017 £13 million will be invested in the following areas; Beverley, Bradford, Doncaster, Hull, Knaresborough, Leeds, Malton, Northallerton, Rotherham, Sheffield, Wakefield and York.
The work is required to comply with new standards that are being introduced which will halve the amount of lead allowed in tap water.
Engineering specialists, Morrison Utility Services and Balfour Beatty, will carry out the project for us.
Lead in everyday life
Lead comes from many sources, such as car exhausts and old paintwork. It may also be naturally present in air, food, soil and water. Too much exposure to lead can be harmful to health.
While water from our treatment works may contain a trace of lead, it can absorb small traces of the metal if left to stand for a long time in lead supply pipes or internal plumbing.
How do I know if I have lead pipes?
If your home was built before 1970 it may have lead pipes – after that time it is unlikely because there was a change in building regulations. If you’re unsure, you can make a simple check by following the advice below.
How we do refurbish the old pipe?
Usually, teams from our partners will dig just two holes, one at the boundary of your property and one at the point where the communication pipe connects into the water main in the street.
The communication pipe will then be refurbished between the two points. As they will be working on a number of pipes at the same time, there will be lots of holes open at the same time in your street.
If we find a number of other companies’ pipes and cables in the way we may need to dig a larger, longer hole.
We’ll fill in and reinstate the holes as soon as possible, usually within three days, but please be aware this may not always be possible.
How will the work affect you?
A team from either Balfour Beatty or Morrison Utility Services will be coming to your street soon.
You’ll receive a warning card nearer the time to notify you when your water supply will be interrupted.
If you have an older property, it may be earthed using the metal water supply pipe, despite the fact that the water pipe was never intended for that purpose. Since 1966 electrical wiring regulations have prohibited the use of metal water pipes as the sole means of earthing electrical installations in the home. Systems set up before 1966 may rely on the water service pipe to provide an earth, if they haven’t been rewired since by a qualified electrician.
If you believe that your home may be earthed in this way, we strongly advise you to consult a qualified electrician or the company that provides your electricity, and ensure that you have appropriate earthing arrangements in place. We have no responsibility for the earthing for your home.
Check for lead pipes inside your home
Look in and behind your kitchen cupboards and find the pipe leading to the kitchen tap. Lead pipes are dull grey. They are also soft. If you gently scrape the surface of the pipe, you’ll see the shiny, silver-coloured metal beneath.
Other pipe materials in common use are
• Copper – hard and bright or dull brown
• Iron – dark, very hard and may be rusty
• Plastic – predominantly blue but may be grey or black
What can I do to reduce levels of lead in my tap water?
• Don’t drink water that has been standing in pipes for long periods (i.e. overnight or if nobody has been in for several hours). In these circumstances, fill up a washing-up bowl of water from the kitchen tap first. You can then use the water from your kitchen tap as usual. The water in your bowl need not be wasted – why not use it to water your plants? If you are interested in receiving a quote for this work please visit the WaterSafe website to find a plumber in your local area. We appreciate that this may still be too expensive for some customers, but grants for renovation and minor works may be obtained from your local authority.
How the standards are set
You'll be pleased to know that the quality of the drinking water in Britain is controlled by some of the most rigorous regulations in the world. The European Union have set standards for over 50 different substances. On top of this the UK government has added their own more stringent standards which help to further protect public health.
Standards don't always relate to health; tests are also carried out to make sure our water tastes and looks okay. The Drinking Water Inspectorate(DWI) independently monitors our supply and advises the government on all our drinking water quality performance. Visit the DWI website for more information.
If we fail to meet the standards, we'll always investigate promptly to ensure there is no risk to health. If there might be, we advise the Health Protection Agency. We always provide the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) with details of these investigations.
Interrupting your water supply
Sometimes we carry out work on our system which can affect your water supply.
- If the work is planned, we’ll give you at least 48 hours’ written notice of any maintenance or network improvements which may interrupt your water supply for more than 4 hours. We’ll give you at least 24 hours’ written notice of interruptions lasting between 30 minutes and 4 hours. We’ll restore your water supply by the time given in the notice. You can also check our interactive in your area map for the latest updates on any incidents which may be affecting your water supply.
- If the work is unplanned, we may not be able to give you advance notice if we need to interrupt your supply because of an unforeseen incident such as a burst water main, but we’ll restore your water supply within 12 hours or 48 hours in the case of a strategic main.
- If the work takes place at night, we don’t normally give domestic customers advance notice of night leakage checks, provided they last less than 4 hours, as they’re not likely to affect you.
- If the interruption is likely to last more than five hours, we’ll provide an alternative supply of water, usually in bottles or tankers in the street, and take reasonable steps to inform you of their location.
How soon will the work be carried out?
Once you’ve paid the quoted price and requested that we carry out the connection, we’ll normally carry out the required work within 21 days. We provide a standard 25mm pipe connection for domestic properties. We’ll lay the water pipe from our main in the street up to the boundary of your property; normally this is where your garden or property meets the public footpath. We’ll ensure that the water pressure and flow at the boundary meets the required standards. If the property is new, the supply must have a water meter.
What if I need a new water main?
If you own a property which requires a new water main, you may ask us to install the pipework. This is known as requisitioning. Please call us on 0345 1 24 24 24 for further advice and for information about the requisitioning and infrastructure charges which will apply.
A quotation within 28 days
Once you’ve applied we’ll visit your site to assess the work required and confirm we can supply the amount of water you require. You’ll then receive a quotation within 28 days. Once you’ve paid you’ll need to contact our contractors to arrange your connection. We’ll normally connect you within 21 days, though if we need to work in a busy road or restrict road traffic it may take 3 months because of the notice required by local councils.
Alternatively, you may choose your own contractor to do the work. This is known as ‘self-lay’. We’ll then take over responsibility for the ‘self-laid’ pipework, provided that it meets the necessary standards.
We’ll make a decision on whether to ‘adopt’ the main within two months of receiving a ‘self-lay’ application. Should a dispute arise in respect of a requisitioned or ‘self-laid’ water main, you may refer the matter to the industry regulator, Ofwat. For more information, please call us on 0345 1 24 24 24.
What if you need to cut off my supply?
If we have to interrupt or cut off your supply because of a drought, we’ll automatically pay you £10 per day or part of a day during which we’ve interrupted your supply up to a maximum amount equal to our average domestic water charge in the previous year.
What if you need access to pipework on my property?
If we’re carrying out repair or maintenance work, we may need access to your property. We may also visit your home to obtain samples from your tap so that we can test the quality of the water. Remember bogus callers may try to trick you by saying there’s an urgent problem with your water. We recommend that you set up a free security password, so that you can confirm the identity of anyone calling at your home and claiming to be from Yorkshire Water.
Top tips for quality water
• Keep kitchens and bathrooms well ventilated to prevent the build-up of moulds and stains on tiles and other surfaces which are often in contact with water.
• Briefly run off any water which has stood in your pipes overnight before the water is drunk (very important if your pipes are lead). Save this water for house plants or your garden.
• Look out for the WRAS logo on all plumbing materials, this means they’ve been approved by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme and will minimise taste, smell and discoloration problems.
• Ensure hot water pipes aren’t too close to cold water pipes to prevent cold water pipes becoming warm, which can lead to water developing a cloudy appearance due to the presence of air bubbles.
• Inspect water tanks and other storage tanks regularly, checking for adequate covers, vents and ventilation to help prevent tastes, smells and slimes.
• Always use an approved plumber with a good reputation. To find an approved plumber visit the water safe website.
You can also take a look at this helpful guide of handy household tips to help you enjoy the quality of tap water once it reaches your home.
Slug pellet advice
Follow good slug pellet practice
The wet weather conditions of spring and autumn usually mean that it's time to apply slug pellets to protect crops and plants. But, with the wet weather comes the risk of residues containing the active ingredient in most pellets, Metaldehyde, finding their way into our raw water supplies.
Thankfully, current residue levels are so minute that there's no risk to health. but they are above that allowed by UK/EU legislation.
We'd like your help to keep these levels to a minimum. Applying more slug pellets than you need as well as being a waste of money, also increases the risk of metaldehyde affecting water resources, so please make sure you only use the necessary amount. Consider using pellets based on Ferric Phosphate which do not cause the same problems, whilst proven to be still effective at killing slugs. Also, if using metaldehyde based pellets, consider using better quality wet process pellets with lesser strength formulations. They may cost a little more than cheaper pellets but they stay as a bait for longer, rather than washing away. Formulations containing 3% and even 1.5% Metaldehyde have proven to be just as effective as those with 4 or 5% . Pellets containing 6% metaldehyde previously available can no longer be purchased and shouldn't be used.
How you can help us
- Check to see if you have got slugs on your land before using pellets . Set slug traps using an upturned tile and chicken mash layers as a bait underneath it.
- For domestic users, garden centres sell slug traps in which stale beer or a yeast solution can be put. These attract slugs and thus reduce risk of damage to plants and the need to use pellets.
- Use the minimum dose possible as advised by your agronomist and on the product packaging.
- Talk to your agronomist about ferric phosphate based alternatives.
- Check the calibration and operation of pelleting equipment before use.
- Apply slug pellets when heavy rain is forecast.
- Apply slug pellets if field drains are flowing.
- Apply slug pellets within six metres of water courses or ditches.
- Clean your applicator in the yard - clean it in a field away from margins and ditches/watercourses.
- Use slug pelleting equipment unless trained and have approval to do so.
For more information and best practice advice go to www.getpelletwise.co.uk *
* 'Get Pelletwise' is the campaign of the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group (MSG) that was set up in 2009 in response to analysis showing traces of metaldehyde across various parts of the UK. It is made up of representatives from Water Companies as well as representatives from the agricultural and agri-chemical sectors.