Over ninety private water supplies, affecting over 5,400 people, were found to be on boil water notices, says EPA

  • One fifth of the population, mostly in rural areas, get their drinking water from private water supplies. The remainder of the population are supplied by public water supplies which are the responsibility of Irish Water.
  • Boil water notices were imposed on 94 private water supplies during the 2015 reporting period, affecting a population of over 5,400.  This compares to a total population of 3,770 with boil water notices in public water supplies today.

A special report focusing on the quality of Private Water Supplies in Ireland, released today by the EPA, shows that twenty per cent of the population are supplied by private supplies – mainly through group water schemes, or small supplies/wells operated by the owners of buildings/businesses as part of a public or commercial activity.


Commenting on the findings of the report, Mr. Gerard O’Leary, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

“Despite recent improvements to private water supplies, there were 94 private water supplies affecting over 5,400 people on boil water notices.  Further improvements are required to ensure that people on private water supplies have access to clean and wholesome drinking water.”


Monitoring results show that private water supplies to commercial businesses (hotels, B&Bs, pubs, etc) or to buildings where the public has access (schools, crèches, campsites, etc) are at greater risk of being contaminated.  The report highlights that more than sixty of these supplies were found to be contaminated with human or animal waste at least once during the reporting year.


Concluding, Darragh Page, Senior Inspector of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,
“Local authorities have extensive enforcement powers to ensure that action is taken where water quality issues are identified in private supplies. Where such issues are identified and the water supplier is unwilling to take action the local authority should exercise its enforcement powers to ensure that consumers are protected.”


The report is available on the EPA website. Infographics explaining the report are also available.

Private Water Supplies are defined as:

  • supplies which provide water to more than 50 consumers or supply more than 10,000 litres per day; or
  • supplies which provide water as part of a public or commercial activity (such as schools, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, B&Bs, campsites etc).

Supplies serving less than 50 consumers, including private wells serving single houses, are exempt providing they do not supply water as part of a public or commercial activity.  There are three main types of private water supplies in Ireland and all are regulated by the local authority:

  • “Public” Group Water Schemes (PuGWS). These are schemes where the water is provided by Irish Water but responsibility for distribution of the water rests with the group scheme.
  •  “Private” Group Water Schemes (PrGWS). These are schemes where the owners of the scheme (usually representatives of the local community) source and distribute their own water.  These can supply up to 5,000 people.
  •  Small Private Supplies (SPS). These include supplies such as:

– Industrial water supplies (such as those used in the brewing industry);

– boreholes serving commercial premises (e.g. pubs, hotels etc.) and public buildings (e.g. schools, nursing homes);

– private housing developments where greater than 50 persons are supplied.

Some key findings of the 2015 report on private water supplies:

  • 92 public group water schemes, 30 private group water schemes and 864 small private supplies were not monitored for E. coli during 2015. Of the 864 small private supplies, 270 served hotels, restaurants or other premises serving food or drink to the public, 99 served schools or childcare centres and 23 served nursing homes.
  • 98.1 per cent of samples comply with microbiological parameters.
  • The percentage of schemes fully compliant with the E. coli standard is as follows:

– Public group water schemes – 100 per cent

– Private group water schemes – 96.1 per cent

– Small private supplies – 94.8 per cent

  • 99.7 per cent of samples comply with chemical parameters.
  • 94 boil water notices affecting a population of 5,437 people were issued to consumers of water in private water supplies.
  • 48 audits of private water supplies were carried out by 8 local authorities.
  • 5 directions were issued by 4 local authorities.
  • No prosecutions were reported to the EPA.


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