Risk of drinking water quality failures caused by home plumbing

According to the Drinking Water Inspectorate’s annual report, more than a third of water quality deficiencies in households last year were caused by problems with internal plumbing.

While 99.97 percent of tests in England and Wales passed extensive water quality checks, 38 percent of those that failed to meet the required standard were due to poor sanitation practices.

Last year, 276 routine water samples in England and Wales contained bacteria or chemicals, as well as other problems such as the taste and smell of the water.

Poor sanitation practices and inadequate fittings are a major cause of degrading drinking water quality after it is safely piped into people’s homes.

In some cases, contaminated water from household appliances, toilet tanks and an immersion heater flowed back into the drinking water. This can be easily prevented by installing an appropriate backflow prevention device on all water-using equipment, which prevents contaminated water from flowing back into the clean drinking water system.

In several cases, poor tap hygiene was also to blame, with tea towels being hung over taps or limescale deposits not being removed, leading to bacteria entering the tap and potentially leaching into drinking water.

Likewise, the use of unsuitable or non-compliant products can lead to the formation of bacteria. The Drinking Water Inspectorate reports that in one case, a kitchen mixer tap with a pull-down hose and plastic sprinkler head not only allowed bacteria to grow in the plastic nozzles, but the hose was also patched with tape to prevent a leak.

Now WaterSafe, the UK register of approved contractors working with drinking water, is urging homeowners and property managers to always employ someone officially approved to work on their plumbing system – to keep their drinking water safe and healthy.

WaterSafe approved plumbers and other specialist water service providers have specialist training in water supply (fittings) regulations designed to protect the water supply from the risk of contamination.

Julie Spinks, Director at WaterSafe, explains: “Hiring a WaterSafe approved contractor for any work on your water supply line or internal plumbing is one of the easiest ways to keep you and your family safe.

“Simple plumbing work can make a big difference, such as installing appropriate backflow preventers on pipes to prevent water from toilets, household appliances and garden hoses from mixing with your clean drinking water.

“Hiring a WaterSafe approved plumber gives customers the peace of mind that they are hiring a competent and qualified professional to maintain high drinking water quality in their homes.”

Marcus Rink, Managing Director of the Drinking Water Inspectorate, explains: “Overall, drinking water in England is of extremely high quality and meets 99.97% of the required standard.

“However, it is important that we do not become complacent as our annual report highlights that more than a third of water quality deficiencies last year were due to problems with internal plumbing.

“We would like to warn people to avoid unqualified plumbers who could inadvertently cause contamination of the water supply and instead contact a suitably qualified, licensed plumber.

“Consumers should hire a plumber who is accredited by a national accreditation body for competent and qualified plumbers, such as WaterSafe.”

The annual water quality reports summarize the results of hundreds of thousands of water quality tests that UK water companies carry out each year on the water they supply to their customers’ homes from water treatment plants and pure water storage tanks.

These tests are analyzed in special laboratories and the results are reported to the water regulatory authority, the Drinking Water Inspectorate.

Customers can find their nearest WaterSafe approved plumber or other specialist contractor at watersafe.org.uk.

The annual drinking water report can be downloaded from dwi.gov.uk.

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