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Water pollution

Water pollution is the contamination of streams, lakes, underground water or the sea by substances harmful to living things. The major water pollutants are chemical, biological or physical materials that degrade water quality. Water pollutants can result from many human activities, for example:

  • residential communities contribute mostly sewage, mixed with traces of household chemicals
  • industrial pollutants may enter water sources from the outfall pipes of factories or may leak from pipelines and underground storage tanks
  • sometimes industries discharge pollutants into city sewers, increasing the variety of pollutants in urban areas
  • polluted water may flow from mines where the water has leached through mineral-rich rocks or has been contaminated by the chemicals used in processing the ores
  • pollutants from farms and pastures contribute animal wastes, agricultural chemicals and sediment from erosion.

The Environment Agency is the environmental regulator for water and is responsible for maintaining or improving the quality of fresh, marine, surface and underground water in England and Wales. Its aim is to prevent or reduce the risk of water pollution wherever possible and to ensure that pollution that might affect ecosystems or people is cleaned up. In addition, the Water Resources Act 1963  places a duty on it to ensure the proper use of water resources in England and Wales.

Further information can be obtained from the Environment Agency water pollution page.


If you are concerned about pollution in a river, stream or pond:

Who is responsible for water quality?

Mains water

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) is responsible for assessing the quality of drinking water in England and Wales, taking enforcement action if standards are not being met and appropriate action when water is unfit for human consumption.

Private water supplies

The Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016 impose new monitoring duties and require the local authority to carry out risk assessment on specific areas of the supply. In addition revised water quality standards and tighter monitoring of certain supplies are intended. The regulations specifically impact supplies for human consumption purposes which on average provide 10 or more cubic metres of water per day or serve 50 or more persons, or are supplied or used as part of a commercial or public activity. A private distribution system includes where a public supply is further distributed to other outlets; for example, caravan parks, shopping centres, industrial estates, educational establishments and hospitals.

The Private Water Supply (England) Regulations 2016 require the council to check the quality of private water supplies and permits Medway Council to recover costs associated with providing particular services to private supply owners/operators in fulfilment of their duties under the Regulations. These duties include carrying out risk assessments, investigations and taking and analysing samples. Go to the breakdown of costs and charges.

DWI has produced a leaflet: New Private Water Supply Regulations: What do they mean for owners and consumers.

If you believe that your home or business is served by a private water supply or a private distribution system or if you would like any further information, please contact us using the contact details below.

For general advice on private water supplies go to Private Water Supplies or the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI)


To report a water pollution problem to Medway Council, please use one of these two online forms: