Taking care of the water in your home.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) has recently reported that water quality in England and Wales remains at a very high standard, with 99.95 per cent of tests carried out in 2009 meeting very strict criteria. But the Consumer Council for Water wants to remind consumers of the steps they can take to ensure the quality of water coming to their homes is as good when it comes out of their taps.

Property owners are usually responsible for maintaining the water pipe bringing tap water into their home and all the plumbing inside the property. It is important that customers are both aware of this responsibility and have the information they need to ensure the quality of their tap water is maintained throughout the home.

The UK water industry has produced a leaflet, Looking after water in your home, which gives customers useful advice and information covering issues such as how a dishwasher or washing machine should be plumbed in, and how to best care for a cold water storage tank. The leaflet and a list of detailed tips are available at www.ccwater.org.uk.

Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Certain things that are under customers’ control can affect the high quality of water coming out of their taps particularly in relation to taste and smell. We know that most people are not water quality or plumbing experts, and therefore expect and encourage water companies to give appropriate assistance, advice and support to their customers. If a customer is concerned about his or her tap water quality they should contact their local water company.

“Customers can take a few simple steps to ensure the tap water in their home remains high quality.”

The Drinking Water Inspectorate said: “We support and encourage the sharing of practical advice for homeowners to help them maintain the quality of water supplied to their homes.”

The Consumer Council for Water’s top tips for maintaining water quality:

  • If something goes wrong, use an accredited plumber. Look for members of an Approved Plumber Scheme or members of a trade association such as the Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering, the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors, or firms belonging to the Government-sponsored trustMark scheme (www.trustmark.org.uk).
  • Think about the tap when cleaning your sink. Clean both the inside and outside of the spout, as bacteria can build up around the rim where water comes out. Let the water run for a few moments to rinse any residue from the soap.
  • If dishwashers and washing machines are not plumbed in correctly water sitting in the rubber feed hoses could mix with water drawn from your kitchen tap. You may need to fit a non return valve to prevent this from happening. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when installing. If in doubt, use an accredited plumber.
  • Many older properties have water storage tanks in the roof space or loft. Often the tank will feed upstairs bathrooms, but in some properties it can feed other taps as well. Ideally you should only use a mains fed tap for drinking water which is usually at the kitchen sink. People will still be in contact with water from the storage tank for brushing their teeth and showering/bathing. You should check that the tank in the loft is covered with a close fitting lid that will prevent anything from falling into the tank and will not deteriorate or allow mould or bacteria to grow on it and drip into the water.
  • Some older properties have lead water pipes, and lead from these pipes can be picked up by tap water. To check whether you have lead pipes in your home, find the pipe leading to your kitchen tap. Unpainted lead pipes are dull grey. If you have lead pipes and are concerned about the quality of your tap water, ask the company to come and test it. If a sample signifies a possible problem, the company will make sure that none of its own pipes leading to your home contain lead. As a precaution try not to drink water that’s been standing in the pipes for long periods, for example over night. Instead, fill a bowl with water first thing in the morning to clear the water which has been standing in the pipes. The water can be used on household plants to avoid wasting it.
  • A few houses may have rainwater harvesting systems which gather rain water, for example, from a roof, and connect it into the home so that it can be used for activities such as flushing the toilet. It is important that a rainwater system is plumbed in properly to avoid contaminating your drinking water supply. Make sure that if you have, or would like to install a rainwater system it is done by a qualified plumber and in line with manufacturers’ instructions.

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