Paul Taylor is the certification director at NSF International, a US product testing, inspection and certification organization
Water fittings compliance in the UK market: NSF REG4 explained
Posted 20th September
If products or materials in contact with drinking water alter the quality of the water being supplied to consumers, then this can have adverse impacts on public health. So, how can we ensure that drinking water is clean and safe for consumers globally?
Concerns about public health have led different countries to develop their own drinking water regulations, which manufacturers must comply with in order to sell their products into those specific countries.
The UK first introduced Water Regulations/Byelaws in the 1827 Manchester & Salford Act that introduced a byelaw ‘to protect the wilful misuse of water and negligent waste’. The Waterworks Act of 1863 introduced the requirement not to contaminate the water and therefore set the fundamentals of the UK regulations that are in place today, and states that a consumer should not ‘waste, misuse, unduly consume or contaminate the water supply’.
These first-of-their-kind regulations laid the foundation for the current Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 that detail the minimum requirements for water fittings and materials in contact with drinking water. More specifically within this regulation, Regulation 4 details how manufacturers of materials and water fittings can demonstrate compliance.
Regulation 4 is a specific requirement for products in contact with water and states that “every water fitting shall be of an appropriate quality and standard; and be suitable for the circumstances in which it is used”.
Regulation 4 then states a “water fitting is of an appropriate quality or standard only if:
- it bears an appropriate CE marking in accordance with the Directive;
- it conforms to an appropriate harmonized standard or European technical approval;
- it conforms to an appropriate British Standard or some other national specification of an EEA State which provides an equivalent level of protection and performance; or
- it conforms to a specification approved by the regulator.”
Until now, the options for manufacturers to verify their products’ compliance with Regulation 4 of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations have been limited as CE marking and harmonization of standards has not been forthcoming for products in contact with drinking water.
The conventional existing route for compliance requires products being presented at formalised approval meetings, at predetermined frequency on specified dates. This, coupled with interpretation issues of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations, has meant that manufacturers at times had to wait several months before being able to bring their product to market.
In response to industry concerns and to meet manufacturers’ needs and expectations, NSF International has developed its own certification scheme, NSF REG4, which offers an alternative route to market that facilitates a smoother approval process for products in contact with drinking water and ensures that products comply with the UK water regulations.
NSF International’s UK-based staff have been involved with the UK regulatory framework for over 30 years and have used this experience to develop the NSF REG4 certification scheme.
The scope of the NSF REG4 certification covers all products in contact with drinking water from property boundary to the terminal fitting, i.e. point of discharge and includes isolation valves, backflow prevention devices, taps, mixers, showerheads, pipes, fittings, cisterns, water meters and all products in contact with drinking water. NSF REG4 also certifies non-metallic products such as rubbers, coatings, cements, resins and sealants.
Finally, NSF REG4 incorporates a more conventional testing and audit-based scheme to verify compliance, allowing manufacturers to benefit from an additional and ongoing proof of quality of their products.
Products that meet the requirements of NSF REG4 are certified by NSF International and are listed by NSF International on the same day and are entitled to bear the NSF REG4 mark, making it easy for manufacturers to demonstrate Regulatory compliance and for users to recognise a compliant, quality product.
NSF REG4 will be continually reviewed by consulting UK regulators, water utilities (and other user representatives), product manufacturers and trade associations via industry forum meetings to ensure that policies are current and reflect market practices.