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Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999

The Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 were made under section 74 of the Water Industry Act 1991 to prevent the waste, misuse, undue consumption, contamination or erroneous measurement of drinking water.

The Regulations set requirements for the design, installation and maintenance of plumbing systems and water fittings in England and Wales. They are enforced by water companies in their respective areas of supply.

Specific goals of the Regulations

Preventing contamination

Contamination of drinking water can occur when a decrease in pressure in the water supply causes fluids to travel back up the pipe. This is known as backflow or backsiphonage, which can cause contaminants to be drawn back into the drinking water supply unless adequate precautions are taken. The Regulations identify five fluid categories, which reflect the impact of downstream fluids and the associated risk to public health should fluids contaminate drinking water. The backflow prevention specification within the Defra guidance to the Regulations (see above) equates each fluid category to a range of suitable backflow prevention devices.

Water conservation

The Regulations set minimum standards for the water consumption of WCs, urinals, washing machines, dishwashers and washer driers. They also contain requirements to ensure the durability and leak tightness of water fittings and guidance on minimising the length of pipe runs to reduce the run-off necessary to get hot or cold water at the tap. The Regulations reduced the maximum flush volume of new WCs to 6 litres and permitted more efficient dual flush systems.

In 2001 a performance specification for WC suites was introduced, with which all newly installed suites must comply:

Further information on the efficient use of water can be found on Defra's water conservation pages.

How do the Regulations affect you?

Water systems and fittings in premises that are, or will be, connected to the public water supply must comply with the Regulations. If you are planning to carry out certain plumbing work you must obtain the prior consent of your water company by giving advanced notice of the work. This includes the installation of water fittings in connection with the:

  • Erection of any new building or structure
  • Extension or alteration of the water system in any premises except a domestic dwelling
  • Material change in use of any premises
  • Installation of any fitting listed in section 5 of the Regulations
  • Construction of a large pond or swimming pool with automatic replenishment

The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) has published the Water Regulations Guide, which contains the Defra guidance and a more detailed explanation of the requirements. This can be ordered from WRAS, who also publish a Directory listing Approved Products, which meet the requirements of the Regulations.

Approved plumbers

The Regulations introduced the concept of an approved contractor to identify plumbers who are competent in the requirements of the Regulations. Approved contractor status carries certain statutory responsibilities which benefit plumbers and their customers. Water companies are entitled to run approved contractor schemes, as well as any organisation appointed by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales.

The majority of water companies subscribe to the Water Industry Approved Plumber Scheme (WIAPS) operated on their behalf by WRAS. Other water company schemes are run by Anglian, Severn Trent, Thames and Yorkshire Water. Three national schemes have also been approved by Defra, operated by the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employer's Federation (SNIPEF) and the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC).

Useful contacts

For technical advice and assistance with the application of the Regulations, you should consult your water company or WRAS. A list of water company contacts are available on the WRAS website.

WRAS provides assistance to the water industry and general public in the consistent application and interpretation of the Regulations. It publishes a range of useful information and guidance to facilitate compliance with the Regulations. The Scheme can be contacted at: WRAS, 30 Fern Close, Pen-y-Fan Industrial Estate, Oakdale, Gwent, NP11 3EH. Tel: 01495 248454 email: Website:

The Consumer Council for Water represent the interests of customers in respect of price, service and value for money. They also investigate complaints from customers about their water company.

Defra has responsibility for water fittings policy in England. The National Assembly for Wales fulfils the same role in Wales.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) regulates public water supplies in England and Wales. 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.

Drainage is dealt with by the Building Regulations - the responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government.


Under the Water (Scotland) Act 1980 Scottish Water may make Byelaws regarding water fittings. The confirming authority for these Byelaws is the Scottish Ministers. The requirements of the Water Byelaws 2000 (Scotland) are broadly equivalent to the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations. The Byelaws are enforced by Scottish Water and technical issues should be addressed there or to WRAS.

Northern Ireland

The Water Service, which is an Executive Agency within the Department for Regional Development, is responsible for the provision of water and sewerage services throughout Northern Ireland. It is in the process of preparing new regulations to ensure that the standards and requirements for water fittings used in Northern Ireland are broadly similar to those contained in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999. The Water Service is also responsible for ensuring enforcement of the appropriate standards and requirements.

Water Regulations Advisory Committee (WRAC)

The Water Regulations Advisory Committee (WRAC) served from 1996 to 2003 to provide expert technical advice to Government in the development and implementation of the Regulations. Archived content related to the work of the committee can be found on the National Archives Website:

Page last modified: 12 November 2008
Page published: 19 November 2002