Catchment News

The quality of drinking water in private water supplies is not good enough and is putting health at risk warns EPA

11 February 2020: The EPA today released the Drinking Water Quality in Private Supplies 2019 report. One million people in Ireland get their drinking water from a private supply and many more drink water from small private supplies like hotels, pubs and restaurants, crèches, nursing homes and national schools in their daily lives. 

  • More than 100 private water supplies failed to meet the bacterial standards for drinking water. Bacteria in our water supplies can make people very ill, particularly young children, the elderly, or those who are immunocompromised. 
  • One in five known small private supplies were not monitored in 2019. Water suppliers monitor water to ensure they are providing a clean and safe supply of drinking water.
  • Water suppliers, local authorities and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage need to act to improve the quality of private drinking water so that human health is protected.
Are you affected by private water supplies?

88 of the 1,418 small private supplies monitored, failed to meet the standards relating to bacteria, which is the most important indicator of safe drinking water. Similarly, twenty of the 417 private group schemes monitored during the year, serving approximately 3,000 people, failed to meet the standards. This failure, in more than 100 private water supplies, is of significant concern and puts the thousands of users of these supplies at risk. The EPA also found failures to meet the standards for other parameters (for example, nitrates and trihalomethanes) that need to be addressed.

Critically 19 per cent of registered small private supplies, serving food businesses, nursing homes, creches and B&Bs were not monitored in 2019.  If a supply has not been monitored, it makes it impossible to be confident that the water is safe to drink.  Local Authorities must ensure that monitoring is undertaken in line with the Regulations.

“Consumers should be confident that their water is safe to drink. Water suppliers are obliged to make sure their water supply is clean and wholesome and is in compliance with the water quality standards. It is critical that monitoring is undertaken and, if issues are identified, action must be taken to protect human health.”

Dr Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage developed a Remedial Action List for Group Water Schemes in 2016. This is a list of 106 group water schemes, mainly in rural areas, that require upgrades to improve drinking water quality. The report shows that progress is being made and the Department has stated that it expects that all of these supplies will be addressed by the end of 2021. 

“The Group Water Schemes identified on the list of 106 supplies need to make sure that their supplies of drinking water are safe now and for the long term to better protect public health.   It is also essential that the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage puts in place improved governance and supports for the rural water sector so that appropriate actions can be taken to improve these supplies.

Andy Fanning, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement

Learn more:

The report is available on the EPA website.

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.


Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,829 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives and measures for each.


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures that will be implemented after public consultation and sign off by the Minister.