The Water Regulations came into force in England and Wales in 1999 and the Scottish Water Byelaws were also updated in 1999 but differ slightly from England and Wales Regulations.
Water quality for safe drinking water for the public is highly important, however, I feel that the Water Regulations are not pushed as much as they should, I personally think this is due to so much focus been placed on Gas and the Gas Regulations, that installers have let their attention slip a bit on Water Regulations and this includes me.
Let’s look at one of the most flouted regulations in my opinion, WC fill valves, most properties are now either on unvented cylinders and Combi boilers, this means the cold water to these properties are fed from the water mains, I understand that some properties are still tank fed and if the tank supply is feeding the WC this is fine and the following scenario will not affect these installations, but if the WC is fed from the mains and the customer calls a plumber in as their WC is overflowing continuously, on inspection the plumber decides repair is not an economic solution, so decides to replace the ball valve, he goes to his van and takes out a brand new valve, these new ball valves are quick to fit and give options to adjust height to suit the WC cistern and most importantly they have WRAS approved on the box, the plumber fits the new ball valve, all works well and the customer is happy as they have a nice quiet fill valve that does not overflow, the plumber is happy he has done a good job and feels he has complied with the Water Regulations as he has fitted a WRAS approved ball valve, but unfortunately the plumber has broken the water regulations. I have done this and I found out when I posted a picture on Social Media of a replacement ball valve I had installed, when a good colleague of mine Paul Daley (Captain Backflow) contacted me and told me that the type of ball valve I fitted requires a double check valve to be compliant, I said no it’s OK the ball valve is WRAS approved, not quite was his reply.
The problem with WC fill valve manufacturers putting WRAS approved on the box is not the whole picture and is misleading in my opinion, when you go to the WRAS website site https://www.wras.co.uk/ and look up the particular fill valve you have, it will most likely be WRAS approved and have an approval No for that particular product, however, it will come with IRN these are Installation Requirements or Notes, nether the IRN No or its contents are mentioned on the box of the fill valve, or in the installation instructions, however, without adhering to these IRN’s from WRAS the product will be contrevening the Water Regulations, as it is not fully WRAS approved without complying with the IRN, but the onus will be on the installers, for example and not mentioning any products, one of the IRN that are on a well known WC fill valve brand is IRN R160 this states the following
“A Compliant double check valve or some other no less effective device providing backflow prevention protection to at least fluid category three shall be fitted at the point of connection(s) between the water supply and the fitting or appliance”
It also has IRN R280 which states,
“A service Valve shall be installed on the supply to the fitting in a readily accessible location”
And also IRN R390 which states,
“An inlet strainer or line strainer shall be provided at the inlet”
NOTE: Not all fill valves require a strainer, but most of the new types of fill valves do require a check valve, usually single for side inlet and double for bottom inlet
Now, without fitting these additional components, the fill valve is NOT WRAS approved and is in contravention of the Water Regulations, I have only highlighted one risk that mostly gets ignored there are more, including the fitting of kitchen sink taps with the pull out hoses that can go below the waterline of the sink, which is a fluid category 5 risk and so check valves are insufficient for protection, the fitting of hand held shower hoses at WC used for washing after WC use, again a category 5 risk, but plumbers fit them with double check valves thinking that is sufficient protection and I am sure there are many other regulations that plumbers are contrevening without even realising it, I think we need to draw more attention back to Water Regulations, improve our knowledge more on the regulations, but I do feel that Water Safe and WRAS can do more to highlight these risks, also we need more updates on Regulation changes etc, it’s time we took our drinking water protection more seriously as plumbers, I urge all plumbers to join either Water Safe or WIAPS, let us all work together.
These schemes are free to join, as long as you have a formal plumbing qualification, have taken the Water Regulations course and have public liability insurance, it is down to us plumbers to raise awareness, share knowledge and improve our industry, if we wait for others, it will never happen