Poor plumbing causes tap water quality failures

Poor plumbing causes tap water quality failures

Nearly a quarter of water sample failures taken at customers’ taps didn’t reach quality standards because household plumbing doesn’t reach the mark.

This is one of the findings highlighted in a report launched today by the Chief Inspector of Drinking Water. It shows that despite tap water quality in England and Wales being among the highest in the world, of the small proportion of samples that do fail, a number are the result of poor household plumbing.

In its annual reports for 2016, the Drinking Water Inspectorate for England and Wales confirmed that 99.96 per cent of samples in England and 99.97 per cent of samples in Wales passed stringent water quality tests, but have highlighted that where failures did occur, many were at customers’ taps.

Of these, 24 per cent were caused by poor plumbing practices, wrongly connected pipework, substandard fixtures and fittings and poor kitchen tap hygiene. All of which can cause the quality of drinking water to deteriorate after it has been transferred from the public water mains into private pipes and properties, potentially resulting in contamination.

Lead, nickel, taste and odour are behind some of the failures and these can be caused by legacy pipework, the wrong materials and fittings being used or inadequate protection from water ‘flowing back’ into internal pipework from dishwashers and toilets.

WaterSafe, the national register for plumbers which is backed by the Drinking Water Inspectorate and all the English water companies, is urging homeowners and property managers to use approved plumbers to help keep drinking water supplies safe.

Julie Spinks, Director of WaterSafe, said: “Water supplies in England are among the highest quality in the world and we want to ensure that the quality of the water remains high at the point it leaves customers’ taps. “Many people don’t realise that there are many things which can affect water quality in homes, or other buildings, such as lead pipes, poor quality taps and fittings and even wrongly connected appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and even toilets.

“We vet plumbers before they are allowed to join the WaterSafe register to ensure they have the right skills and knowledge to work safely with water. We also ensure they have insurance and customer care schemes in place so customers can trust they are employing a competent and qualified professional who will not compromise the quality of one of the most important services in their homes.”

Plumbers on the WaterSafe register have specific training in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations and Byelaws, which are designed to preserve the high quality of water that is supplied by water companies, and avoid the risk of contaminated water.

Marcus Rink, The Chief Inspector of Drinking Water for England and Wales, said: “Consumers need to be aware of the risks associated with poor household plumbing and sub-standard fixtures and fittings when it comes to the quality of their tap water.

“I urge them not to take any chances and always be sure to employ a reputable plumber. The Watersafe register is there to help people make an informed choice and provides confidence that work carried out in their home is done safely by a skilled and competent plumber using approved materials.

“It is an important part of ensuring that drinking water remains healthy and wholesome right up to the tap and reaches the high standards we all quite rightly expect.”

Each year thousands of samples of water are taken from reservoirs, water treatment works, pumping stations, water mains and customers’ taps by water companies.

These are tested in laboratories to monitor for a range of substances, including metals, pesticides and naturally-occurring bacteria which are measured against required standards. The overall pass rate for drinking water was 99.96 per cent in England and 99.97 per cent in Wales.

The annual Drinking Water Quality Report can be downloaded at

To find your nearest WaterSafe approved plumber, enter your postcode online at or for advice on water quality visit

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