Determining whether the water supply is public or private

Can anyone tell me or direct me to a place that lets me know how to figure out whether the water supply in a home is public or private? Ive been looking at the plumbing section of the internachi course but i cant seem to find where it actually tells me how to figure out whether its private or public. Maybe i just havent found it but ive tried looking.

If you see a water meter, chances are that it is public. If you see a pressure tank, chances are that it is private.

This, is not always the case. But, if you report public or private, credit in writing where you received the info.


Oh thats it? i knew that, i thought there would be more to it than that.

You don’t have to as per internachi SOP but it is usually mentioned in the property descriptive.

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II. The inspector shall describe:
A. whether the water supply is public or private based upon observed evidence;
B. the location of the main water supply shut-off valve;


I always report its source but didn’t think we had to; time to reread the SOP…

We find well equipment all the time with public water as the primary. Sometimes the well equipment is old and out of order, sometimes its used for irrigation. If you see a meter its most likely public. If you see something that looks like this
It may be a well. Certain towns in my areas are almost exclusively public while others are a mix which helps us in determining between well and public. One other thing to look for is one of these
(Not sure about your area) the water companies here in NJ have these installed on the outside of the home usually directly on the siding. Its a touch scan water meter for public water

Id imagine bigger cities use alot more public water supply then?

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We have in our area “shared” private systems. These systems often have meters. Found in small housing developments where there is no municipal water service and rather than having a bunch of individual wells drilled the developer drills one well with the supply shared among the homeowners. So - use caution if stating “private” or “municipal”. Buyers in our area want to know, even if beyond SOP. I query the seller if necessary. Sometimes directly, sometimes through their agent. Another source of the answer (other than experience and what you see on site) is the local AHJ and/or Health Dept. Lending institutions sometimes insist on having that info. If non-municipal they may require water quality sampling and volumetric flow rate (GPM for a given time).

#A - Location of property. Chance are good if in the middle of a large town its public.

#B - Out in the country or some burbs in forsaken states, look for meters, pumps, cisterns, ASK the seller or neighbors OR get crazy and call the water department OR ask L/A for utility bills

I research the property on the internet. Usually sites like Redfin, Realtor, or Zillow will have this information listed as they pull it from the MLS.

Presence of a pressure tank does not always mean a private well. I have found them along with a small pump to boost the pressure in the house.
You won’t always find a meter easily.
Knowing your area and having an understanding of where public and private water runs helps.
Locating a well head, generally in view of the house, though older systems may be below grade.
If it is not private or a shared system, there may be a breaker in the panel for the pump. Sometimes the pressure tank and controls are in a well house or pit and not in the house, basement or crawlspace.
Often, if it is a shared well or system, the tank may be at a different location. Usually the shared well systems are a bit more remote, at least here they are.

Morning, Steven. Hope to find you well.

Great question! Truly.
Watch out new members/inspectors. Water source can be a legitimate legal pitfall that can penetrate inspectors and become reporting jeopardy.

Rural inspection in small counties/municipal towns. Defer to vendor or listing.
This is one reason “report limitations” are SO important.

My Reports: Limitations: Inspection limited/prevented by; Inspection of the plumbing system was limited by finished wall, ceiling and floor coverings.
Recommend: Defer to vendor or listing.