Private water supplies in food businesses

This page has information for food business owners about private water supply safety. 

Private water supplies are any that provide drinking water from an independent source. 

Private water supplies include all of the following:

  • water pumped from rivers or creeks
  • rainwater
  • groundwater from bores.

Drinking and cooking water safety

If your food business provides drinking water or uses untreated water you must make sure the water is safe to use by customers and staff. 

Water for drinking and cooking must comply with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. 

This is because untreated water may contain microbiological or chemical contamination that can't be detected by taste or smell. 

If your food business provides water from a private supply, you must:

  • register with the Department of Health
  • and demonstrate that your water is safe by arranging water sample tests.

Water sample tests

If you use a private water supply at your food business you must arrange and pay for the following tests.

Test water must be taken from a kitchen tap or other relevant source.

Bacteriological test

You must get your water tested for bacteria every year. There must be no E. coli bacteria in 100mL of water tested to pass.

NTG Water Microbiology Laboratories provide water testing services for E. coli.

You can contact the laboratory in Darwin or Alice Springs to get sterile prepared sample bottles and advice on how to collect and transport water. 

To get water tested in Darwin, call (08) 8999 2347. To get water tested in Alice Springs, call (08) 8951 8110.

Chemical test

Private drinking water supplies must not exceed trace metal and other health thresholds outlined in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

If your water sample meets the guidelines, you can wait five years before taking this test again.

Intertek's Northern Territory Environmental Laboratories can test water for chemicals in Darwin.

You should check with the laboratory to find out how to collect and transport your water sample by calling (08) 8947 0510.

If the water is not safe 

If a water sample test does not meet health guidelines - for example, if E. coli is detected - the Department of Health will conduct a health risk assessment. You will be told what actions you need to take.

Last updated: 13 October 2017