Jun 23rd, 2022
7 mins

There is one essential in life that is critical to effective firefighting – WATER – with it, a fire authority will normally have the tools and procedures to instigate an effective firefighting plan and protect additional risks around the fire. Without it, there is Armageddon.

As you would expect there are many pieces of legislation that need to be followed and adhered to and of course if these things are not achievable then additional measures must be instigated. The first of these is the Fire Services Act 2004. It would not be possible to go into this in great detail, but section 38.1 states one of the main duties would be, ‘A fire and rescue authority must take all reasonable measures for securing that an adequate supply of water will be available for the authority’s use in the event of fire’ and so ‘A fire and rescue authority may enter into an agreement with a water undertaker for the purposes of section 38(1). Therefore we have hydrant systems in the streets.

Approved Document ‘B’ is the basic fire safety legislation that must be followed with any new build or alterations to a building. It states that a building should be no more than 100 metres from a fire hydrant, which is usually achievable for smaller factory units and shops, but for larger more industrial sites this is not always possible, so the document calls for the provision of private hydrants or alternative supplies of water. These can come in many differing formats with the simplest of these being an extension from the water authority’s line with hydrants 90 metres apart along its length, this becomes a private main and the testing and maintenance falls to the occupier.

Some larger sites, for example larger airports, have systems utilising ‘dirty water’ in other words rain water or other waste water that is collected through drains and stored in large tanks or ponds, this is then fed via pumps into the onsite hydrant system, usually these hydrants are fixed above ground for speed of access and visibility.

Article 38 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order stipulates that any facilities, equipment and devices for the use of firefighters are subject to suitable maintenance and must be in efficient working order and good repair. Therefore hydrant systems should be inspected regularly to ensure all moving parts and washers operate and tested to inspect the flow at least annually. The National guidance document on the provision of water for fire fighting gives the relevant flow rates for any system depending on the size of the site, the main itself should be a minimum of 150mm (6’’) bore and the flow rates should achieve:

  • Up to one hectare 20 litres per second.
  • One to two hectares 35 litres per second.
  • Two to three hectares 50 litres per second.
  • Over three hectares 75 litres per second.

When it is not possible to supply a piped system or the pressure and flow within the local system is insufficient then the alternatives come into play. These must be in consultation with your local

Fire service and will depend on the size of the site but as a minimum it would be a charged static water tank with a minimum capacity of 45,000litres. This could be a solid tank or a neoprene bag, the choices are endless. 

The other option would be a spring, river, canal or pond (non-tidal) that can provide or store a minimum of 45,000 litres of water at all times and it must be provided with access, space and a hard standing for a pumping appliance, this is called an Emergency Water Supply and is denoted by an EWS sign.



The hard standing is to allow an appliance to lower a hard suction pipe into the water to draw up its supply, but many modern systems incorporate the pipework into the set up and this allows an appliance to connect straight in and draw the water off.


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