What do I need to know if I have or am considering having a private well?

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What do I need to know if I have or am considering a private well?
  • I am thinking of using a private water supply. What do I need to take into consideration?
  • How do I keep a private water supply safe?
  • How do I protect my private water supply?
  • Where can you get further advice about private wells?


I am thinking of using a private water supply. What do I need to take into consideration?

  1. There is a requirement under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act 1977 to register groundwater abstractions.  In Dublin City this register is managed in by Drainage Division, Dublin City Council.  A pre-requisite for registration is to submit a hydrogeological report demonstrating that the proposed abstraction will not have an adverse impact on existing abstractions. P. 222 2155 for further information.
  2. The European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations, 2007 confers stringent responsibilities and liabilities on a Water Supplier to ensure that the water supply complies with acceptable qualities and standards.  Under the regulations the owner of a premises, where potable water from a private source is supplied for public consumption, is deemed to be a Water Supplier. Similarly, the relevant local authority is deemed to be the Supervisory Authority, which in the case of Dublin City is Dublin City Council, Water Services Division.
  3. As a result of No. 2 above full details of the proposed scheme must be submitted to Dublin City Council, Water Services Division for prior approval and no work should proceed until written approval has been obtained. Such information must include source protection proposals, abstraction rates, comprehensive chemical and bacteriological analyses of the water from the well, proposed treatment processes (including back up systems), proposed alterations to the plumbing system in the premises, water quality monitoring regime, Legionella risk assessment, end uses of the water etc.  It is absolutely forbidden for such a private supply to be brought into use without the written permission of Dublin City Council, Water Services Division.
  4. In a combined use scenario i.e. where there is a private and mains water supply, there must be no possibility of back siphonage of well water into the public mains network.  This could arise for example through improper design or maintenance of the internal pipe network or storage tanks.  A basic principle of such a combined network for example would be that well water and mains water would be piped to a Bye Law 30 tank using completely separate systems.  It would also be essential that pipes carrying well water would be colour coded and labelled throughout the premises. This would be necessary for example at all pipe tees, branches, junctions, at both inlets and outlets of valves, at service appliances, cisterns and valves, where pipes pass through walls, at points on pipes adjacent to wall surfaces, every 0.5m along pipe runs and at any other place where identification is necessary.  In addition, notices should be displayed at all appropriate locations alerting staff to the danger of interconnecting the two systems.  Pipes carrying mains water should be similarly labelled. Full details of the internal plumbing system should be submitted to Dublin City Council, Water Services Division for consideration and approval before a well system is installed.
  5. The proposal must comply with the Water Framework Directive and with the River Basin Management Plan of the Eastern River Basin District. Please refer also to the ERBD Final Background Policy, Legislation and Authorities Report as well as the Water Matters report (with particular reference to threats to groundwater quality). Both are published on www.erbd.ie. Contact details for the Project Coordinator are also on this website.
  6. It is necessary to comply with the Water Services Act 2007, the Planning and Development Acts and regulations and any other relevant legislation.
  7. The use of a private well may significantly reduce your bill for water supply, you will still be charged for wastewater discharge.

How do I keep a private water supply safe?

Safe drinking water is essential to good health. Private water supplies can pose a risk to health unless they are properly protected and treated. They may become contaminated with microbes, such as bacteria, or chemicals. Some of these are harmless but others may cause serious illness, particularly in vulnerable people such as the elderly, the very young, pregnant women and sick people. You may not be able to tell without sampling and analysis whether your water supply is safe because the contamination may not change the taste, smell or colour of your water.

How do I protect my private water supply?

Find out about your water supply:

  • Who is responsible for its maintenance –if not clear, consider reaching agreement with other users?
  • Where is the source of the water and what type of source –spring, well, borehole, stream/river, pond or lake?
  • What route does it take to get to your property?
  • Is it treated in any way –and if so is the treatment equipment in good order and serviced regularly?
  • Is your well housing properly maintained and securely sealed against contamination?

Keep your supply safe

Inspect all parts of your supply regularly to check that it is in good condition and has not been interfered with or damaged. This means looking at the source of the supply, including the catchment area of the source, at any collection chamber and treatment plant, and the pipe work to your property.

In cities the main source of groundwater contamination if from urban run-off and may include chemical contaminants such as hydro-carbons. Nutrient and pesticide contamination from open spaces including golf courses, parks and roadways is also possible.

Consider getting your supply checked

It is advisable to have your well tested once a year for bacterial contamination, and once every three years for chemical contamination. These are two distinct tests. This testing is the responsibility of the house or property owner.

If you are concerned that your supply may be contaminated you should get it checked. Contact the City Council or HSE Environmental Health Officer in the first instance, for their advice in sampling. Alternatively, you can arrange to have a sample tested using a private laboratory. But remember that a test can only tell you about the quality of your supply at the time of the test, and the quality of water may change at different times.

Consider treating your supply

If you know or suspect that your supply is contaminated you should consider getting it treated to remove the contamination. If your supply also serves other properties it is better and cheaper to install treatment for the whole supply, provided the other property owners agree, than to install treatment at each property.

The choice of treatment must suit your supply and the contamination present. As with any treatment system it is necessary to develop a suitable maintenance schedule.

Note however, that a once-off disinfection procedure cannot replace a proper treatment system if your supply needs continuous disinfection.

Consider your pipe work

Many private supplies are naturally acidic and may dissolve lead from lead pipes (or lead tanks). If your water supply passes through lead pipes, either inside or outside your property, it may contain high levels of lead. Lead is a bioaccumulant and can be particularly harmful to infants and young children. You should consider replacing the lead pipe work with plastic pipe work.

In order to prevent contamination of the mains water supply the plumbing arrangements for private supplies needs to be physically separated from the mains water supply. The use of sluice valves or non-return valves as a barrier is not acceptable.

What else can you do?

If you no longer want to use your private supply please contact us with regards to connect to the public supply.

Where can you get further advice about private wells?

If you have any questions or want further advice about your private water supply, please contact us at the details below

Alternatively, you may contact the Environmental Health Officer in your Health Service Executive area.

For more information

Irish Water Contact Details:

Web:  www.water.ie
Twitter:  @IrishWater
Telephone: 1890 278 278 (LoCall)
Minicom:  1890 378 378
(For hearing impaired customers with minicom equipment)
Postal Address: Irish Water, PO Box 860, South City Delivery Office, Cork City

Please continue to contact Dublin City Council for information or issues relating to business account queries, surface water drainage and flood management.