The Water Industry Act 1991 and the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 set out the responsibilities of water suppliers, of customers and of those who install water fittings or carry out plumbing work. The following notes summarise some of the main provisions.
The water supplier
It is the duty of the water supplier to supply wholesome water to the premises for domestic purposes. The water suppliers also have the duty to enforce the fittings regulations. They do this by inspecting plumbing systems in new and existing premises for their compliance with the regulations.
You, the customer
The regulations require the installer and customer (user, owner or occupier) to give the water supplier prior notification of certain proposed installations and to comply with any conditions attached to the water supplier’s consent. Correct design and installation is very important and owners should also maintain their water systems adequately. The use of suitable fittings and materials will help to minimise the risk of contamination and waste of water.
What about my plumber?
The regulations encourage suitably qualified installers to be accredited as approved contractors (also known as approved plumbers). An approved plumber will give the customer a certificate stating that the installation work he or she has done satisfies the regulations. In the event of breaches of the regulations in connection with the certified work, the owner, manager or occupier can use the certificate as a legal defence against any resulting prosecution. An approved plumber is permitted to undertake work on extensions or alterations of existing systems without prior consent from the water supplier. When choosing a plumber we recommend you select one that is a member of the WaterSafe scheme. Visit watersafe.org.uk for full details and to find a plumber in your postcode area.
The main causes of concern - contamination and waste
Incorrectly installed water fittings and systems and cross-connections with other water sources:
These can lead to the contamination of mains water supplies and can lead to the waste of water.
Disused water fittings and appliances:
These must have the water supplies disconnected back to the last working branch. Failure to do this can lead to water quality problems.
Using only approved fittings:
Suppliers are not required by law to sell plumbing fittings that comply with the regulations, but both the installer and user will be responsible if fittings do not comply. Be safe by insisting that your supplier confirms that fittings are of an appropriate quality and standard. They may carry the WRAS approved fitting mark and/or carry the BSI ‘kite-mark’.
The use of lead solder fittings in contact with drinking water:
This is prohibited. Care should be taken to ensure that only approved solders, marked ‘lead free’, are used for domestic hot and cold water installations
If you have lead pipework between your water suppliers stop cock outside your home and the kitchen tap, consider replacing it with modern materials.
Problems can also occur when the plumbing system is modified, extended or altered, as water can interact with jointing compounds, fluxes, copper pipes, lead solders, brass fittings and taps etc.
Drinking water points:
Most taps contain flow straighteners or aerators in the outlet. It is important that the outlets of taps are cleaned with a mild disinfectant and then flushed.