Have you ever wondered where your water is coming from? If you live in England or Wales, the water in your tap comes from several different private water companies. Some of these companies can be seen as the successors of regional water authorities, also providing us with sewerage services. In Scotland, on the other hand, water is supplied by a fewer number of national water companies. Nowadays we tend to be charged for water in accordance with our consumption but this was not always the case.
Cold Water Supply
So, how does the water end up in your tap? Well, water travels to your house via the water mains and these are generally run down your local roads. Each individual property will then have its own branch service pipe and these are fitted with a stop-valve. This particular stop-valve is commonly known as the ‘water company stop-valve’ and they are normally found just outside your property boundary. This valve can be located under a small metal cover by the pavement if you live in a town, while it might be a bit trickier to locate it if you live in a more rural area. If you need the mains turned off, you will normally have to contact the water company and they will send out one of their engineers with a special key. The service pipe goes from the water company’s stop-valve to your house and it has to be buried at least 750 mm under the surface in order to avoid frost damage. It can often be found inside a drain pipe in order to protect it from damage and it should rise slightly so that air bubbles can be avoided. The service pipe leads to the property’s own main stop-valve and it is from this point onward that the property’s own supply starts.
As a home owner, you are responsible for the supply pipe as well as the entire domestic distribution system. In older houses, the mains and service pipes were made of galvanised lead or iron but nowadays they tend to be replaced by either copper or plastic pipes. When the pipes were made of galvanised lead or iron, the pipes had another purpose as well. They were used to provide an electrical earth connection to homes. Since plastic pipe started to be widely used to transport water, electricity companies are now using their own earthing terminals to provide electricity to homeowners.