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Drinking water quality remains high across Northern Ireland

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The safety and quality of drinking water in Northern Ireland remains high, a new report has confirmed.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), which is responsible for regulating drinking water quality, today published its Annual Report for 2019.

Every year Northern Ireland Water carries out almost 100,000 tests to check that our tap water complies with all the stringent water quality standards set by European and national legislation. The results are based on samples taken from water treatment works, service reservoirs and consumers’ taps. The latest DWI report reveals that in 2019, over 99,000 tests were completed, with overall compliance of 99.90% being achieved in Northern Ireland.

Speaking following the publication of the report, Edwin Poots, the Minister for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, said: “The Drinking Water Inspectorate’s latest report is reassuring for consumers. The report confirms that the strict regulatory standards are being met and the quality of our drinking water remains consistently high.

“It is the Drinking Water Inspectorate’s role to provide independent assurance to consumers that NI Water continues to meet its regulatory responsibilities. Its aim is to safeguard the delivery of safe, clean drinking water for consumers, through the independent and effective regulation of drinking water quality.”

The report also said that, notwithstanding the high quality of water recorded this year, there is no room for complacency and NI Water still faces significant challenges. Good operational practice and risk management should be applied at every stage through catchment, treatment and distribution to ensure that NI Water continues to provide safe, clean drinking water to the consumer.

Northern Ireland Water must appropriately manage risks within the water supply system and this should be supported by an appropriately funded investment programme. This is critical to ensure that overall compliance is maintained or improved and high quality drinking water is secured, both now and for future generations.

The Minister added: “The contribution that a safe supply of drinking water makes to farming, businesses and industry, as well as protecting public health, has never been more critical than in the current response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

A small percentage of water is also supplied from private water supplies in Northern Ireland and a number these supplies serve public buildings, such as hospitals and universities, and businesses such as food manufacturers, hotels and restaurants. Extensive monitoring is undertaken of registered private water supplies by local councils on behalf of DWI, with over 15,000 tests carried out in 2019. The overall compliance figure of 99.29% is lower than that reported for the public water supply. The report provides a breakdown of what these supplies are used for and the issues experienced throughout 2019.

Minister Poots added: “The Department will continue to work with NI Water and the owners and users of private water supplies to drive up standards and ensure public health is protected for all the people of Northern Ireland.”

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