Rural Law

The Scottish Government has commenced a consultation on “Draft Water Intended for Human Consumption (Private Supplies)(Scotland) Regulations 2017”.

Background

The new regulations are primarily designed to reflect changes introduced by a recent EU Directive, which needs to be transposed into domestic law by 27 October 2017. That EU Directive is aligned to the results and published guidelines of a World Health Organisation study which looked at the way drinking water was analysed and monitored.

The WHO guidelines focus on the risk of harm caused by particular concentrations of particular substances and chemicals, and seek to avoid costly collection of data which is of little or no relevance to drinking quality of water. Consequently the new EU directive provides for more flexible yet targeted monitoring than its predecessor.

Changes and impact

Monitoring and improvement of private water supplies in Scotland is currently subject to the Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006, which will be replaced by the new regulations but only for “large” private supplies. Large supplies are those which supply more than fifty people and provide more than ten cubic metres per day.

However if the supply is for commercial or public purposes or supplies a premises that is used for such purposes then the threshold will not apply and such supplies will be subject to the new regulations regardless of the volume or number of people served by the supply.

The consultation also invites views on whether the regulations should be extended to cover “small” supplies i.e domestic supplies below this threshold.

The regulations oblige each Local Authority to carry out risk assessments for each qualifying supply, to be completed by the end of 2021 and with each supply reassessed at least every 5 years thereafter. If the quality of a supply poses a danger to human health then the Local Authority will be obliged to take steps to address that and the new regulations provide them with greater enforcement powers than at present.

The regulations prohibit any person from acting in a way that will reduce water quality to a harmful level or that will introduce harmful substances into the supply.

It also creates a concept of “water supplier”, who introduces the supply onto other land and is equivalent in some respects to the “responsible person” under the existing regulations.

The water supplier is responsible for providing a safe supply to the end users but only if that is for commercial or public purposes. The new regulations therefore make it clear that the owner of a water source will not otherwise be responsible for providing a supply of an adequate quality, which will be of some comfort to rural landowners who are in that position. The obligation is simply not to take steps that would result in deterioration of the supply to a harmful level.

Responses to the consultation can be submitted online and it closes on 28 July 2017.

If you wish to discuss the consultation or potential impact then please contact Graeme Leith or your usual contact within the Land and Rural Business team.

Graeme Leith

Graeme Leith

Managing Associate at Brodies LLP
Graeme is part of our Land Rural Business Sector and acts for landowners, funders, developers and tenants in a wide range of transactions affecting rural property.
Graeme Leith