Scottish Government
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Scotland's drinking water

Scotland’s drinking water continues to be of a high quality, according to a report published yesterday.

The annual report by the Drinking Water Quality Regulator (DWQR) on the quality of public supplies during 2011 found that well over 99 per cent of tests on samples complied with strict regulatory standards.

In 2011 Scottish Water carried out over 320,000 tests on water at treatment works, storage reservoirs and consumers’ taps. Of the 151,897 tests on samples taken directly from taps in homes, 99.84 per cent met the standard. This is an improvement on the 99.83 per cent from last year and is the highest ever.

Drinking Water Quality Regulator Sue Petch said:

"I am delighted with these results that show Scottish tap water is top quality. Scottish consumers can be confident that their drinking water is thoroughly tested and that it meets some of the highest quality standards in the world.

"The overall standard of public water supplies remains extremely high. There has been a significant improvement over the last ten years, as Scottish Water has, and continues to, invest in improving the quality of drinking water. The number of samples failing the standards has decreased from 1076 in 2002 to 238 in 2011.

"Most parameters showed an improved compliance in 2011, particularly trihalomethane (THMs). Some did not show an improvement, notably those concerning microbiology. Scottish Water have committed to deliver progress in this area and to improve the level of investigation where failures do occur."

Not everyone in Scotland receives their drinking water from Scottish Water. Approximately three per cent of the population receive water from a private water supply. The quality of some of these supplies remains of concern, with 18 per cent of samples taken from these supplies last year by local authorities containing the E.coli bacterium.

Mrs Petch continued:

"Local Authorities across Scotland are working hard to communicate to the owners and users the potential risk these private supplies pose, and offer support to make improvements. DWQR will continue to monitor progress and assist where necessary."

Drinking water quality regulation began in Scotland in 1991 and drinking water quality was monitored by the Scottish Executive and its predecessor before the role of DWQR was created in 2002, at the same time as Scottish Water.  This is the 10th annual report.

The DWQR is independent of Scottish Ministers and ensures that the drinking water quality duties imposed on Scottish Water are complied with. DWQR reviews water quality data from samples taken by Scottish Water and undertakes targeted audits examining all aspects of its operations. The Regulator also supervises enforcement of the Private Water Supply Regulations by local authorities. An annual report is presented to Scottish Ministers detailing the assessment of drinking water quality during the previous year.

Where drinking water does not meet the required standard, the Regulator has powers to investigate and ensure problems are resolved. This can involve taking enforcement action or prosecution.

The DWQR also has a role in helping to define Scottish Water’s investment programme and is committed to ensuring that drinking water supplies in Scotland are of the highest possible standard.

It is estimated that around 150,000 people rely on a private water supply for their drinking water, with many thousands more using them occasionally, typically on holiday.  Many of these supplies have limited or no treatment. The main risk comes from microorganisms, including E.coli. Strengthened regulations governing the quality of private water supplies were introduced in 2006.

Related information:

Drinking Water Quality in Scotland 2011

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