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Private Water Supplies

General Information

There are over 240 private water supplies in Orkney supplying over 1900 people, both domestic and commercial. That’s roughly a tenth of our people.

These supplies come from boreholes, wells, or springs, and unlike the Scottish Water public supply are not treated with chlorine to kill bacteria. Many have UV (Ultra Violet) light treatment combined with physical filters.

The Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006 and The Private Water Supplies (Grants) (Scotland) Regulations 2006 came into force on 3 July 2006 and regulate domestic supplies with less than 50 people.

The Water Intended for Human Consumption (Private Supplies) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 only came into force in 2018, and regulates large supplies serving 50 or more people, and water used by businesses or in public and commercial activities. Rental of property is a commercial activity.

Details on these regulations and general advice on private water supplies can be found via the link in the Related Sites section of this page.


The Environmental Health Section takes samples and carries out Risk Assessments in accordance with the Regulations for 2 types of supply.

  1. Supplies serving commercial (includes rental of properties or holiday lets) or public activities, or more than 50 persons are sampled each year as part of a programme for a wide range of parameters. There is a charge for this and the level of charge will depend upon the exact range of parameters for which the sample requires to be analysed. These will be determined following risk assessment, the main purpose of which is to identify the points on the supply where contamination is most likely, to ensure that Private Water Supplies are potable (drinking quality).  If samples fail or risk assessments identify problems those in charge of such supplies will always be required to make improvements and if necessary formal legal action will be taken by the Council. On such supplies treatment is always required.
  2. Supplies serving less than 50 persons for domestic use (Type B) will generally only be sampled on request for a restricted range of parameters and there is a charge for this service. Owner occupiers will always be informed of the outcome of sampling and given advice. The Council may require improvements depending on the circumstances. If you are concerned about your water, please contact The Environmental Health Section.


Grants to an upper limit of £800 per household are available to improve the quality of the supply. This is non-means tested and you may be eligible if:

  • Your home or business is in the Orkney Islands Council Area and served by a private water supply.
  • The private water supply is the main or sole source of water for human consumption purposes to these premises.
  • Your private water supply is in need of improvement to bring it up to modern standards.

If you share your supply with a number of neighbouring premises, you may wish to consider making a joint application. A joint application can be submitted in respect of all the premises served by the supply, by you and the other owners or occupiers acting together. In the majority of cases, a joint approach is likely to provide the most effective long-term solution to improve your water quality.

The cost of improving a private supply can vary hugely and there will be instances where the supply requires work that exceeds the £800 grant. In such cases, it will be your responsibility to meet the additional costs. We can provide information and advice about the Grant Scheme and supply a grant application form which we will assist you to complete.

Applicants in receipt of certain specified benefits may be entitled to 100% of all costs of essential works.

For further information and/or to express an interest in a grant, complete the form available in the Related Downloads section below, or contact 01856873535. A signed Use of Information Consent form is required with all grant applications. 

You should not start any of the improvement works before your application is approved and we have agreed that the expenditure is necessary. A risk assessment of your supply will be carried out by a member of staff from the Environmental Health Section to establish the details of improvements required to conform to the Private Water Supplies (Regulations) 2006. The cost of risk assessment (and any associated sampling during the risk assessment) will be borne by the Scottish Government provided a grant application is submitted.

There are some exceptions to Grant approval, the most common being:

  • New builds.
  • Houses under Closing Orders, Demolition Orders or a Dangerous Building Notice.
  • Empty or unoccupied premises.

Further details of these restrictions and others can be supplied upon request.

Contact us: Environmental Health

Water scarcity

With the current dry weather and advice from Scottish Water encouraging wise water use by the public, Orkney Islands Council is reminding owners of private Water Supplies (PWS) to take similar steps and report any concerns they have about water levels or quality to OIC’s Environmental Health team.

Private water supply users are encouraged to:

  • ensure your supply is secure, with no leaks
  • consider moving livestock to an alternative supply
  • take timed showers as opposed to baths
  • ensure washing machine and dishwasher are fully loaded
  • harvest rainwater for gardening use
  • contact neighbours, to discuss your contingency plan

The latest weekly water situation report published by SEPA shows that water levels in Orkney have not reached an Amber Level of  ‘moderate scarcity’, but continue to be in the “green” early warning category due to persistent dry ground conditions and low surface water flows.  However it should be noted that Groundwater levels are falling as normal for the summer but so far remain within the normal range for the time of year.

 Further tips on using water wisely can be found at

 If any domestic private water users in Orkney do have supply problems, they are encouraged to contact us as soon as possible for advice by emailing or phone 01856 873535 Ext 2801

Updates on water supplies from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) can be found their website:

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