Where does our water come from?
We take water from lots of sources. Around half the water we supply comes from moorland reservoirs, a quarter from rivers, and a quarter from underground boreholes and spring sources.
What standards does our drinking water have to meet?
The quality of drinking water in Britain is controlled by some of the tightest regulations in the world, with standards set by the European Commission for over 50 different substances. The UK government has added extra standards to protect public health. Not all standards are about health, some control the taste and look of water. The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) independently monitors our operations and advises the government on our performance in all aspects of drinking water quality.
To find out more, visit dwi.gov.uk.
How do you make sure our water meets these standards?
To make sure the water we supply your home meets the government’s high standards, we regularly take samples from our treatment works, service reservoirs and customers’ taps for testing. We test over 500,000 water samples every year! We also carry out operational checks, using state-of-the-art technology and laboratory techniques, to make sure your water is the best possible quality.
The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) then looks at the results from these tests and creates an independent report on its findings.
How do you test water from customers taps?
To make sure all our customers are getting great quality water, we do home water quality inspections. These are spot checks and we randomly select addresses from each of our supply zones.
To test your water quality, we get samples of water from your main feed, this is usually the cold water tap in your kitchen. We take these samples away for testing.
Taste and smell
pH (Hydrogen ion concentration)
E.coli and Enterococci
Other substances and compounds
Is there lead in my drinking water?
Lead can naturally occur in water, but it’s rare in the UK. Our water mains aren’t made of lead and we test our water at every stage of the treatment and distribution process to make sure it meets the strict drinking water standards.
If you live in an older house, the pipes that supply your water and the plumbing inside your home may contain lead. If water is left to stand in lead pipes, it absorbs small traces of the metal. If you’re exposed to too much lead it can be harmful to your health.
What are you doing to improve water quality?
We're currently upgrading our water treatment works and network of pipes to lower the risk of discoloured water and leakage.
Why do we need to upgrade the water mains?
Our network of pipes is huge and some of it was laid in Victorian times - so there’s always pipes in need of some TLC! When older pipes corrode, natural minerals can build up in these pipes and cause low pressure or funny coloured water. By upgrading these pipes we’re giving our customers a more reliable, top quality drinking water supply.
How do you 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 are beyond repair, we replace them with new durable plastic pipes. If the new main is going to supply your home, a service pipe will be laid up to the boundary of your property.
- Cleaning pipes - if the pipes are in good condition, we simply clean them to remove the natural minerals that cause low pressure or funny coloured water.
- Relining pipes - if the pipes are in poor condition, we reline them with a protective coating. Once the lining is hard, we disinfect the pipe and take water samples to make sure it's safe.
Can I improve the water quality in my home?
Yes, you can! Here are our top tips to improve your water quality:
- 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.
- Run off any water which has stood in your pipes overnight before the water is used (very important if you have lead pipes). Save this water for houseplants or your garden.
- Look out for an approval logo on all plumbing materials, this means they’ve been approved 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 WaterSafe website.
Can slug pellets affect water quality?
Yes, when it rains, slug pellet residue containing Metaldehyde can be washed into our water supply.
Thankfully, current residue levels are so small, there's no risk to health but they’re above the level allowed by UK and EU legislation. We'd like your help to keep the level of Metaldehyde as low as possible.
- Check if you’ve got slugs on your land before using pellets - set slug traps using a tile with chicken mash layers underneath.
- Buy some slug traps which use stale beer or a yeast solution from your local garden centre to protect your garden. These attract slugs and reduce risk of damage to plants and the need for pellets.
- Use good quality wet process pellets with lower strengths - they may cost a little more, but they stay as a bait for longer before washing away. Pellets with 3% and even 1.5% metaldehyde have proven to be just as effective as those with 4- 5%.
- Use the minimum dose possible as advised by your agronomist and the product packaging
- Try using ferric phosphate pellets -they’re great at killing slugs and won’t affect our water.
- 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.
- Use pellets containing 6% metaldehyde.
- Clean your applicator in the yard - clean it in a field away from margins, ditches and watercourses.
- Use slug pelleting equipment unless you’re trained and have approval.
For more information and best practice advice go to 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’s made up of representatives from Water Companies as well as representatives from the agricultural and agri-chemical sectors.