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What are the Water Fittings Regulations?
The Water Fittings Regulations (or Byelaws in Scotland) are national requirements for the design, installation and maintenance of plumbing systems, water fittings and water-using appliances. Their purpose is to prevent misuse, waste, undue consumption or erroneous measurement of water and, most importantly, to prevent contamination of drinking water. They replace the former Water Supply Byelaws which each water supplier has administered for similar purposes for many years.
Where do they apply?
Since 1 July 1999 in England and Wales, 4 April 2000 in Scotland* and 3 August 2009 in Northern Ireland, all plumbing systems, water fittings and equipment supplied, or to be supplied, from the public water supply come under these regulations (byelaws). This applies to systems in all types of premises. The regulations (byelaws) apply from the point where water enters the property’s underground service pipe. Premises without a public water supply connection are not governed by these regulations.
[*The Scottish Byelaws were updated with effect from 30 August 2004]
Who has to comply with the Regulations?
Owners and occupiers of premises and anyone who installs plumbing systems or water fittings have the legal duty to ensure that the systems satisfy the regulations. Advanced notice must be given of proposed installations in most cases, so architects, building developers and plumbers have to follow the regulations on behalf of future owners or occupiers.
Are the Regulations retrospective?
This question refers to water fittings which were installed before the regulations (byelaws) came into force. Where fittings were ‘lawfully installed’, which means installed in accordance with the preceding byelaws in force at the time, the current regulations (byelaws) cannot require use of the fittings to cease, nor require their removal, replacement, alteration or disconnection (Regulation (Byelaw) 2 paragraph (4)).
However, if in the opinion of the water supplier these fittings give rise to a significant risk of contamination or waste of water, even if they complied with the byelaws in force at the time of installation, the water supplier can insist on improvements, using the Water Industry Acts.
The Government requires water suppliers to enforce the regulations. Water Suppliers can provide copies of their Codes of Practice on Enforcement. As with the previous Supply Byelaws, water suppliers will undertake inspections of new and existing installations to check that the regulations are being met. Where breaches of the regulations are found, the water supplier will require them to be remedied as soon as practicable. Where breaches pose a risk to health, the water supply to the premises may be disconnected immediately to protect the health of occupants or others fed from the same public supply. It is a criminal offence to breach the regulations and offenders may face prosecution.
How do the regulations affect you?
• Your plumbing system must be installed and maintained to comply with the regulations.
• You must prevent contamination of drinking water.
• You must give advanced notification of installation work.
• You may benefit from using an Approved Plumbing Contractor.
1 Plumbing systems to comply
Plumbing systems must be designed, installed and maintained to meet the regulations’ requirements. Plumbing materials and fittings must be of a suitable standard. It is not illegal to sell unsuitable fittings and appliances but to install one would be illegal, so check suitability before purchase. The regulations list the standards which fittings must meet and the Water Fittings and Materials Directory, published by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS), gives up-to-date details of a wide range of items which have been tested and proved to comply. Plumbing must be properly installed and maintained to protect water quality, to ensure safety, ease of access for maintenance, detection of leakage, protection against damage or freezing etc. If you are doing your own installation, ensure you know what requirements you must meet. If you are employing someone else, consider using an Approved Plumber who will guarantee compliance of the new installation. Application of the regulations is not back-dated. Any plumbing system or water fitting which was installed lawfully under the Water Supply Byelaws before the regulations came into force can still be used, even if it would be illegal to install it now.
2 Prevention of backflow
Where water or water-using equipment is used with fluids or materials which could contaminate it, there must be adequate protection to stop backflow of potentially contaminated water into other parts of the system, especially drinking water. The regulations define Fluid Risk Categories by the type of contaminants which are present and specify the appropriate type of prevention device which must be fitted to guard against backflow.
3 Advanced Notification
In most cases, before any proposed installation starts, the installer, owner or occupier must obtain the water supplier’s consent by giving advanced notice of the work. This applies to water system installations in connection with any of the following:
• The erection of any new building or structure.
• The extension or alteration of the water system in any premises except a domestic dwelling.#
• The material change in use of any premises.
• The installation of:
- A bidet with an ascending spray or flexible hose;#
- A bath larger than 230 litres (measured to the centre of the overflow);*
- A shower unit of a type specified by the Regulator (but none is currently specified);*
- A pump or booster drawing more than 12 litres per minute;
- A reverse osmosis unit;
- A water treatment unit producing a waste water discharge or requiring water for regeneration or cleaning;
- A reduced pressure zone (RPZ) valve or other mechanical device for protection against backflow in fluid category 4 or 5;
- A garden watering system unless designed to be a hand-operated one;*
- Any water system laid outside a building and either less than 750 mm or more than 1350 mm below ground level;
• Construction of an automatically-replenished pond or swimming pool of more than 10,000 litres.*
In addition, for Northern Ireland only, notification is required for:
a WC with an ascending spray or flexible hose; #
a flexible shower hose or other flexible outlet for use in conjunction with a WC; #
a ‘shower-toilet’ or ‘bidet- toilet’ where, either as part of the WC itself or as an addition or adaptation of it, a stream of water is provided from below the spillover level of the WC pan for personal cleansing; #
a pump delivery pipe drawing water from a supply pipe;
greywater, recycled water, reclaimed water and rainwater harvesting systems;
water systems for fire fighting, including domestic sprinklers.
For notification, the following information must be sent to the local water supplier (see the phone book for the address):
- The name and address of the person giving notice and, if different, of the person to whom the consent should be sent.
- A description of the proposed work and any related change of use of premises.
- The location of the premises and their use or intended use.
- Except for items marked (*) above, a plan of that part of the premises which relates to the proposed work and a diagram showing the pipework and fittings to be installed.
- The plumbing contractor’s name and address, if an approved plumber is to do the work.
Consent will not be withheld unreasonably, and may be granted subject to conditions, which must be followed. If consent is not given within ten working days, it is deemed to have been granted. This does not alter the obligation upon the installer and owner or occupier to see that the regulations are fully met.
4 Approved Plumbers
An Approved Plumber will provide a certificate to state that his or her installation or maintenance work satisfies the regulations. If breaches of regulations are found in the certified work, the legal responsibility falls upon the Approved Plumber and not on the owner or occupier. Installation by an Approved Plumber of items marked (#) in the list above does not have to receive prior consent but on completion, compliance certificate copies must be sent to the water supplier, in addition to the person who asked for the work to be done. Details are available from the local water supplier of Approved Plumbers who have demonstrated their experience of plumbing work and knowledge of the regulations and have liability insurance cover.
Where can I get a copy of the regulations and further advice?
For England and Wales, the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations and their Schedules are Statutory Instruments (1999 No. 1148 and No. 1506) available from HMSO and via the Internet link below.
Copies of the Byelaws 2004 (Scotland) are available via the internet link below
Copies of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 are available via the internet link below.
The Government has also published on the Internet a Guidance Document relating to the Schedules, which is relevant to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is available from the internet link below.
The text of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 and Scottish Byelaws is included with detailed Water Industry guidance and interpretation in the "Water Regulations Guide", available from the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme. Water Suppliers cannot provide a design service for installations, but they will try to answer individual queries from customers, designers, builders and installers about the interpretation of the regulations.Useful contacts:
Local Water Supplier: see the local telephone book, under ‘Water’.
The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS): The Scheme is funded by all the UK Water Suppliers to provide an advisory service for Water Regulations. Copies of the Water Regulations Guide (including the Scottish Byelaws) are available on request. The Water Fittings and Materials Directory is available on-line via the link on the WRAS homepage.
The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme, Fern Close, Pen-y-Fan Industrial Estate, Oakdale, Gwent, NP11 3EH.
Tel: 01495 248454. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
We would like to thank WRAS for allowing the use of this information by Drayton Tanks.