Water Quality Problems

What to do if your water supply fails a bacteriological test? 

If your water fails due to E Coli or Coliforms the Local Authority will provide you with the necessary advice but in summary they will advise you to BOIL YOUR WATER or ONLY USE BOTTLED WATER. 

Until further tests, water at your tap is not wholesome and could cause illness such as diarrhoea or virus infections 

All water used for drinking and food preparation should be boiled briskly for at least one minute. 

This includes: 

  • ice-making 
  • ice-lollies 
  • brushing teeth 
  • babies' feeds 
  • making up dehydrated food 
  • washing up 

How often to boil fresh water? 

After boiling, keep a reasonable amount of cooled water in a clean, covered container in the refrigerator or a cool room, preferably in the dark. 

If not used within two days discard and boil a fresh supply. 

What about washing up and wiping surfaces? 

All cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery should be washed in water that has been boiled or water that has had a disinfectant added. Washing up liquid is a degreaser not a steriliser/disinfectant. 

If dishwashing machines are used, the detergent/steriliser recommended by the manufacturer should be used. For food businesses washing up, it is best to use a detergent with steriliser combined. 

If no detergent/steriliser is available add the normal washing up liquid together with a weak solution of bleach in the quantity of 1 fluid ounce per gallon of water. Boots or Milton sterilising fluids available at Chemists are ideal as a steriliser. 

Food preparation surfaces should be wiped over with a disposable cloth soaked in a weak solution of bleach (i.e. 1 fluid ounce per gallon of water) or as directed on the steriliser bottle.  

What about use of water for food preparation? 

Even though water may be discoloured it can still be used after boiling. The equality can be improved if it is strained through a handkerchief or muslin before boiling (any straining cloth should be boiled before re use) coffee filter papers are ideal for this purpose and this may be especially applicable for the preparation of baby foods. Babies’ feeds should only be made with boiled water. 

Water must be boiled before incorporation into ice-lollies or similar products or dehydrated food. 

Can I use sterilising tablets? 

Boiled water is safer to drink than water that has only had a sterilising tablet or a liquid sterilant added. If you intend to temporarily chlorinate the water for drinking, use liquid hypochlorite, e.g. Boots sterilising liquid or Milton, rather than the sterilising tablets. 

What to do if your water supply fails a chemical or other substances test? 

The actions you must take will depend on the parameter failing, so specific advice must always be sought from the Local Authority in the first instance. 

Whose responsibility is it to ensure the water supply is wholesome? 

It is the owner/occupiers responsibility to make sure the householder has a wholesome water supply. 

Every effort should be made to make sure the situation is rectified if this is not the case and the Local Authority will use enforcement powers to ensure that improvements are achieved where necessary. 

The Drinking Water Inspectorate has some useful information regarding private water supplies (external link)

Further Information