You can't apply for this licence online. Contact your local council.


If you want to market water emerging from an underground source in Northern Ireland as natural mineral water, you must first apply to the district council for the area where the water source is located, for recognition.

This doesn’t apply if the water is not intended for human consumption.

How to apply

Applications for permission should be in writing and be accompanied by any supporting documents that the district council requests.

In order for permission to be granted you must comply with certain requirements designed to ensure the chemical and physical characteristics and purity of the water are unchanged during exploitation. These include:

  • protecting the spring or outlet against pollution
  • ensuring your abstraction equipment doesn’t contaminate the water
  • bottling the water at source

You must pay for the cost of obtaining recognition.


Before water can be officially recognised as natural mineral water, certain information about the source and the water itself must be supplied to the district council. This includes:

  • a location map and hydrogeological description of the source
  • the physical and chemical characteristics of the water, eg flow rate, temperature of the water at source, trace elements and radioactivity
  • microbiological tests, eg to show the absence of parasites and organisms capable of causing disease
  • tests for toxic substances, eg to ensure they are not present in quantities dangerous to human health

You must show that the source is protected from all risk of pollution and that the composition, temperature and other essential characteristics of the water remain stable. Data must be collected over a sufficiently long period for this to be established conclusively.

Abstraction equipment - including pipes, valves, filters and tanks - must be installed for inspection before recognition is granted, and must be described in your application. A scale diagram of the source site and a flow diagram of the water abstraction equipment should accompany this.

If permission is granted, you must comply with conditions relating to the bottling, labelling, advertising and sale of that water.

You must also carry out routine checks on the quality of the water.

Only certain authorised treatments are permitted for natural mineral waters.

If the water is officially recognised as natural mineral water, you must then apply to the district council for permission to exploit the spring, for the purpose of marketing it as natural mineral water.

Fines and penalties

If you market water as natural spring water without permission, or fail to comply with any conditions imposed by the district council, you are committing an offence and may be fined up to £5,000.

Before you start operating you should seek advice from the environmental health department of your district council.