The rise in popularity of rural living can bring with it not just a different outlook to urban properties but sometimes also different service providers. While many rural properties are served by mains water supplies, some may be supplied by private source. We set out the principal differences of which buyers should be aware.

There are several ways that private water supply can differ from being connected to a mains water supply. One of the first things to consider is the source of the water supply, as this affects what rights the property needs. If the source and all necessary pipes etc. are on and serve only your property, no specific title rights are required. If the supply originates on, or is shared with, another property, then both you and any shared users will need rights to use the supply and related infrastructure, as well as rights of access for maintenance when necessary. These are likely to be included in the existing title documents; if they are not, rights will need to be negotiated and created as part of the purchase the property. These terms should deal with responsibility for maintenance works (and/or contribution to costs of same) which will be useful to know in advance of purchasing the property.

It is worth bearing in mind that you may need to seek consent from the owner of a neighbouring property to carry out any maintenance works. While this may seem easier than contacting a public body about a repair, how simple it is may depend on the relationship with the neighbour. 

The water from a private supply should be checked regularly to ensure it is safe to drink. Supplies that serve multiple properties or properties with commercial use (which includes letting out to short- or long-term tenants) should be risk assessed and registered with the local authority, and annual testing is required. A supply that serves just your house or a couple of owner-occupied houses is not subject to these requirements but regular testing is recommended. The local authority can carry out their own risk assessments on smaller supplies whether requested or not and may charge for this. If the water supply fails testing, the person in control of the supply will be notified and will need to notify any other users of the supply and take the steps recommended to address the issue. Filtration or chemical treatment will often resolve matters and grant aid can be available from the local authority. If the problem is not remedied, then a formal notice can be served; it is an offence not to comply with such a notice.