Cryptosporidium: the health issues

Cryptosporidium in Water Supplies


Private water supplies are defined as any supplies of water provided otherwise than by a statutorily appointed water utility. There are about 50,000 private water supplies in England and Wales supplying about a third of a million people with water for domestic purposes and 20,000 in Scotland supplying 130,000 people. Approximately 40,000 of these supplies serve people in a single dwelling. However, many more people will consume private water supplies used for food production purposes such as brewing or when it is supplied to places such as hospitals, hotels, schools or campsites.

Although there are some private supplies in urban areas, particularly those used serving industrial purposes, most private supplies are situated in the rural parts of the country. The source of the supply may be a well, a borehole, a spring or a stream. The supply may serve just one property or several properties.

Regulation of private water supplies

Private water supplies are regulated by local authorities under the Private Water Supplies Regulations. These contain the same water quality standards as those for public drinking water supplies but the frequency of monitoring and the parameters tested will vary according to how many people use the supply or the volume of water used daily. The regulations do not require private water supplies to be monitored specifically for Cryptosporidium. They rely on the presence of faecal coliform indicator bacteria to warn of possible microbiological contamination.

The regulations require only infrequent monitoring of small private water supplies and there is no specified sampling frequency for those supplies serving only a single property for domestic purposes. Therefore owners and users of private water supplies need to be aware of the potential for water contamination and what can be done to reduce the risk.


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