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COVID-19 - Reinstating the water supply safely in food premises after COVID-19 lockdown closure

The Drinking Water Inspectorate have produced generic guidance for businesses on good practice on reinstating and maintaining a water safe supply in buildings that have remained unused during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate guidance below will help ensure that water quality is maintained and a clean and safe drinking water supply is available when you re-open your food premises after the COVID-19 lockdown period of closure.

The possible hazards to public health

After an extended period of low turnover or no demand, a water supply in a food or business premises may deteriorate when left stagnant in storage tanks and pipework. Typical examples of deterioration problems can include:

  • the leaching of lead and nickel to a poisonous level
  • the build-up of Legionella in tanks creating serious respiratory hazards
  • the accumulation of foul taste or odour issues
  • the build-up of disinfectants to toxic levels
  • failure of unused valves permitting backflow of faecal matter from toilets
  • dried out filters which become ineffective or have accumulated serious contamination.

Smaller public, commercial and retail buildings and other premises should consider the building Water Safety Plan.

  • As an absolute  minimum you should carry out progressive flushing of water storage tanks and pipework in order to introduce fresh water into the system before consumer access. 
  • Hot water systems need to be raised to a temperature of greater than 60°C, and full system disinfection may be required in some circumstances to achieve 50mg/L free chlorine.
  • Building managers are advised to work in collaboration with the local water supplier to avoid sufficiency issues in the local area and to manage the disposal of large volumes of water, disinfectants and other chemicals. 
  • Building managers should seek advice where necessary from WaterSafe scheme approved plumbers, or in more complex situations, from an experienced and competent professional. 

New risks as a consequence of CoViD-19

New risks as a consequence of CoViD-19 should also be considered, such as drinking water fountains, water cooler dispensers, communal drinking water points and the like, where person to person transmission may be possible.

The design of any water outlet should protect it from direct contact by the hands and mouth, i.e. the outlet should be free flowing without splashback, and with sufficient space for a glass or bottle which then can be used for drinking.

In addition, a cleaning regime with a food-safe anti-viral disinfectant, carried out at a regular frequency throughout the day, should be put in place.

Further information and advice

Further information and advice on keeping water safe in food and business premises please visit: