Last edited 18 Feb 2021

Public water supply

The public water supply is drawn from sources around the country. The nature of the source of water will dictate its treatment requirements, and its original location will determine its final destination.

Typically, the first stage of the water supply process is the collection of rainwater in reservoirs, either from rivers and streams or from groundwater. This is directed to water treatment works where it is treated and then stored in covered reservoirs before being pumped out via a distribution network of pipes and pumping stations.

Water is distributed to consumers through large pipes referred to as mains. These pipes are buried underground and are sometimes located below roads and pavements.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, water and sewerage services are publicly owned. Scottish Water provides the services in Scotland and Northern Ireland Water provides services in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, relevant legislation is set out in the Water Industry (Scotland) Act.

In England and Wales, water supply services are privately owned by regional companies that provide both water and sewerage services, or water only.

Local monopoly water companies have a duty under section 45 of the Water Industry Act 1991 to respond to requests for new connections for domestic purposes, but can charge for providing the connection.

For more information see: Mains water.

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