If you live in a terraced (row) house or an older semi-detached one, it is likely you and your neighbor will be sharing a water supply with a common supply pipe system.
What this means is the water supply coming into your home comes via a shared access pipe that goes through a party wall, or shared wall using a shared stop tap.
So basically you are sharing the supply pipe branching off the mains with your neighbor.
This doesn’t have to be a problem but there are some potential issues with a shared water supply that you might want to know about.
Let’s take a look at common problems that are caused by shared water supply with your neighbor:
Sometimes, if you are sharing a water supply, you might find when the neighbor is running water your own pressure drops considerably.
This might mean you can’t take a shower, for example.
It could be the case that either your neighbor or you have the stopcock which controls both their and your supply.
This would mean if your insurance company wanted you to shut off the water supply (perhaps if you are going on vacation) then you wouldn’t be able to because it would affect the neighbor.
Water Metering Problems
Another potential problem concerns water metering. Some people have a hard job trying to convince the water supplier they are paying for water and not actually using it.
An important factor is how well you get along with your neighbors.
If you have a problem with a shared water supply then instead of solving it easily it could mean even more problems down the line.
Can I Get My Own Supply Pipe?
The solution to common water sharing issues is usually a water mains replacement. Since the Water Industry Act was passed in 1991, everyone is entitled to be connected to their own water and sewage pipes.
This means that yes, you have the right to your own supply. It does mean the new supply pipe, which is going to run from the mains in the street into your property, is your responsibility, so you have to pay for it out of your own pocket.
Since you are responsible for the water pipe (unlike with, say, a gas supply pipe) you could ask your water supplier to create a new supply pipe from the mains into your house.
They will still charge you the going rate for doing it. Another idea is to do it yourself but unless you have the right experience and specialist equipment needed, this is not recommended.
If you happen to damage any other pipes while doing the work, you could find it a very expensive process!
What To Do About Low Water Pressure?
Water pressure can vary throughout the day and night for a number of reasons.
It happens when the water main doesn’t have enough pressure for the water to get to the top of the house.
This isn’t a common occurrence but can happen if you have a burst water main. Houses sharing a water pipe are more likely to experience low water pressure.
A reduction in pressure inside the house which doesn’t affect the cold tap in the kitchen can be caused by water pipes or plumbing issues.
Your neighbor might or might not be experiencing low water pressure.
Low water flow isn’t the same as low water pressure. You can have a good flow along with low pressure or a poor flow along with high pressure.
The pressure from the water mains should be the same for everyone sharing the water pipes, but it’s your private supply pipe determining the flow to your home.
To test and see if you do have low water pressure, fill a gallon (4½ liter) bucket with water. Turn off all taps along with appliances using water in the house.
If the bucket takes more than 30 seconds to fill with water, you probably have a flow or water pressure issue and should contact the water company.
The water mains are usually owned by water companies so it’s their responsibility to maintain them.
The water supply line coming into the building though is the responsibility of the owner. However if you are using a shared water pipe, things might not be so straightforward.
Typically properties sharing a supply are jointly responsible for water pipe maintenance and/or repairs.
This also depends which part of the pipe needs to be maintained or repaired.
Disputes over shared water pipes are a civil matter so you can’t just ask the water company to assist you.
If you want to separate yours and your neighbor’s supply though, that is possible even if a neighbor objects.
How to Find and Use the Stopcock (Stop Tap)
It’s important to have a working stop valve inside to protect your home. This is the main method of switching your water on and off.
Also known as a stop tap or stop valve, the stopcock controls the supply of cold water entering your home. The outside stopcock should only be used if you have an emergency, such as a leak between the indoor and outdoor stop taps.
The stopcock is usually found under a cover on the road or sidewalk. It might be at the end of the street (especially if you’re sharing a water supply with neighbors) or it might be very close to your water meter.
Don’t rely on the outside stopcock to switch off the water inside your house. The inside one is simpler and faster to use.
If you’re unable to find the inside valve, or if it won’t work, then you need to use the outside one by turning it clockwise. You might need to turn it a few times. Just keep turning it until it won’t turn any more. Don’t use force with it.
Also bear in mind it can take several minutes for the water to stop running from the tap because there will be water still in the pipes to come out.
Remember, if you are sharing a water supply with your neighbor, you will need to inform them that you are turning the water off because theirs will also go off.
When you want to switch the water back on, just turn the valve counterclockwise.
You might need to turn it several times and also remember it can take several minutes for the water to run since it has to run through all the pipes once more.
That’s mostly everything important you need to know about sharing water supply with your neighbor.
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below. We will try to answer it as soon as possible!