Water quality and pollution

Water quality and pollution

The City Council works with others to protect water quality and ensure the water we drink is safe. Find information here on the following:


Pollution of watercourses

The Environment Agency is responsible for maintaining or improving the quality of fresh, marine, surface and underground water in England. This includes managing water resources, regulating sewage treatment and disposal, nitrates from agriculture and discharges from industrial processes, as well as the sampling of coastal waters and rivers, and responding to pollution incidents.

If you suspect that there has been an incident involving pollution of a watercourse or still water, an unusual change in river flow, or fish in distress, you should contact:

 For more details please see the Environment Agency's page on reporting an environmental incident.


Discharges to sewers

A public foul sewer collects waste water (sewage and trade effluent) only. A surface water sewer collects surface water drainage only. A combined sewer collects both foul and surface water drainage. Sewers are the responsibility of Northumbrian Water.

You can discharge:

  • sewage from domestic facilities, e.g. toilets, basins and canteens, to a public foul sewer or to a public combined sewer

  • trade effluent to a public foul sewer or to a public combined sewer

  • clean uncontaminated water to a separate surface water sewer or to a public combined sewer

Before you release trade effluent into a sewer you must have a trade effluent consent or enter into a trade effluent agreement with the water and sewerage company. Once you have a consent, you must comply with its conditions.

If something such as chemicals or oil is poured into or gets into sewers, inform Northumbrian Water and/or the Environment Agency immediately.

Northumbrian Water works closely with businesses to encourage responsible disposal of food waste and kitchen fats, oils and grease. They publish advice on blocked drains.


Drinking water quality

The Council does not deal with the quality of drinking water supplied by statutory water undertakers. Please contact your water supply company, Northumbrian Water

The Drinking Water Inspectorate is responsible for overseeing compliance with mains water quality standards.

There are no registered private water supplies in the city. If you have a private supply and wish to use it, contact us first and follow Government advice on checking drinking water quality.

A private water supply is any water supply which is not provided by a water company and which would not be considered to be a 'mains' supply, including:

  • wells

  • boreholes

  • springs

  • rivers and streams

  • lakes or ponds

The Water Industry Act 1991 defines the powers and responsibilities of local authorities in relation to private water supplies, and together with The Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016, place a duty on local authorities to conduct a risk assessment of each private water supply and to undertake monitoring in order to determine compliance with drinking water standards.

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