Drinking water

Drinking water quality in Scotland is of a very high standard, but occasionally there are factors that can change the quality of the water. This may cause the water to taste, look, or smell different to normal. Most of these changes are completely safe and do not make the water harmful to drink.

Useful information on drinking water quality is available from the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland's website.  Follow the link from the external links on this page.

If you are at all concerned about the quality of your water supply you should first identify whether the water is coming from the mains supply or a private supply (if you are not charged for water on your council tax bill then you are likely to be on a private water supply).

Public Water Supply

The public or mains water supply in the Inverclyde area is looked after by Scottish Water.  The water that they supply to customers must meet high standards set by the government and the European Union.  To ensure that the water at your taps meets these quality targets Scottish Water will carry out a tailored treatment process and also regularly sample and test the water both at the treatment works and at customers' taps.

If you have any concerns about water quality you should first of all contact Scottish Water on 0800 0778 778.

However, if you think that a problem has not been rectified, Inverclyde Council may be able to assist by sampling the supply and/or carrying out other investigations. If a problem is confirmed, Inverclyde Council's Public Health and Housing team can raise the issue with Scottish Water. There is no charge for this service and you can raise a request by contacting the Customer Service Centre using the contact details on this page.

Lead in water supply systems

In Scotland, lead does not occur naturally in significant concentrations in our water supplies. The problem arises when drinking water comes into contact with lead supply pipes, lead tanks, lead solder joints on copper pipes, or inferior quality brass fittings and taps, particularly for longer periods (e.g. overnight/ weekends / holidays periods). This can result in high lead levels in the drinking water supply. 

If you suspect you may have lead pipes, the Council encourages you to undertake further works with a view to establishing whether lead is present and to take steps to replace them.  Grants are available for lead pipe replacement. link to Scheme of assistance

As a short-term measure, precautionary measures you can take to protect your health include:

  • Always take your drinking and cooking water directly from a mains-fed tap. This is normally the cold water tap at the kitchen sink.
  • Never use water for drinking or cooking from any hot tap. Warm water increases the amount of lead that is absorbed from plumbing.
  • Run the mains tap first thing in the morning to flush out any water that has been lying overnight before using any water for drinking or cooking. You should also do this if the water has not been used all day (e.g. when you're out at work) and always before making up bottle feeds for infants. (Two minutes is usually enough to flush out this water. However, if your service pipe is longer than average, you'll need to allow a bit longer for the water to flush through).

Information on the health effects of exposure to lead can be found on the NHS inform website https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/lead-poisoning 

Water supply pipes

Not all of the water supply pipe into a building belongs to Scottish Water. Some of it will belong to the owner of the building. In flats, ownership may be shared by all owners.  See Scottish Water - Pipework Responsibility for information about how to decide who owns which bits of the supply pipe. (link available from external links on this page).

Private Water Supplies

The Inverclyde Council area has approximately 60 private water supplies serving both domestic and commercial properties

Safe drinking water is essential to good health. All private water supplies can pose a threat to health unless they are properly protected and treated. They may become contaminated with bacteria or other substances.

You may not be able to tell whether your water is safe as contamination may not change the smell, taste or colour of the water. Unlike public supplies, most private supplies are not treated to remove contamination.

How to report a private water supply issue

If you have concerns or enquiries regarding your private water supply you should contact the Customer Service Centre, in confidence, for advice and assistance from Inverclyde Council's Health Protection team, using the contact details on this page. 

Anonymous drinking water service requests will be investigated, however that investigation will be limited.  To allow us to fully investigate your complaint you should, if applicable, provide us with:

  • your name, address and if possible a contact telephone number
  • does the water supply a taste, smell or colour different from normal
  • how long has the problem been occuring

Managing your private water supply

Find out about your supply
  • who is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance (if this is not clear, consider reaching an agreement with the other users)
  • where is the source?
  • where does it go to get to your property?
  • is it treated in any way?
  • is the treatment equipment in good order and serviced regularly? 
Keep your supply safe

Make sure you inspect all parts of your supply regularly, including the catchment area, to check it is in good order and has not been interfered with or damaged.

Supplies from springs, wells or boreholes

Check that the source is adequately protected to stop surface water getting into your supply, particularly at times of heavy rain.

Supplies from burns, rivers or lochs
  • The collection arrangement should include a settlement pond to allow larger particles to settle out before the water flows into your supply
  • The collection arrangement should include a sand or gravel filter to remove organic material and small animals – but these filters will not remove all bacteria or chemical contamination
  • Ensure that the water being collected is not contaminated by discharges further upstream from a septic tank, or by sewage
Supplies from farmland/land where animals graze or manure is spread
  • Divert rain water run-off so it does not flow into your supply (for example with a small ditch leading away from your supply)
  • Check that the farmer is aware of the drinking water supply and the need to avoid contaminating it by farming activity
  • Fencing may be necessary to stop farm and other animals from interfering with the water
If your supply has water collection chambers and/or storage tanks
  • These should have watertight walls and lids
  • Tops of chambers or tanks should be above ground level to prevent water from surrounding land flowing into them
  • Any overflow pipes or vents in chambers and tanks should be designed to stop animals and debris from entering
  • The collection chamber should not be close to any soakaway or drain

Registration and water testing

The Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006 came into force on 3rd July 2006 and replaced The Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 1992.

The 2006 Regulations defines supplies as either:

  • Type A - Supplies providing 10m3 of water a day or serving 50 or more persons; and supplies to commercial or public activities irrespective of their size. These require to be risk assessed in order to determine their adequacy. This can be arranged by contacting Inverclyde Council. A charge is applicable to the completion of the risk assessment. OR
  • Type B - Supplies serving only domestic premises with less than 50 persons supplied. These can be risk assessed by Inverclyde Council or by a relevant person. Assistance and advice is available from Inverclyde Council.

Type A supplies fall within the provisions of the E.C. Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC) which requires each supply to be sampled and analysed for a wide range of parameters at least once a year. A charge is applicable to these samples.

Type B supplies are required to comply with a limited range of parameters that are defined in the Regulations and will not form part of a statutory sampling programme. A charge may be applicable to these samples.


Grants are available for the improvement of private water supplies. These can be up to £800 per property (or greater in the case of financial hardship).  For further information and how to apply please follow the 'Apply for a private water supply grant' link available on this page.