Drains and sewers
If you have an issue with your wastewater (sometimes called used water) then you will want to know what to do and who is responsible for what quickly. We’ve pulled together some quick tips including sewer flooding, blockages and ownership. If you have a query which is not covered in this section, please give our Customer Service Team a call.
The attached diagram shows pipe ownership and responsibility.
We aim to provide adequate capacity in our sewers to protect homes from flooding but if you do experience flooding, either inside or outside your property, you can call our Customer Services Team on 0330 111 2014.
We will respond to your report of a sewer flooding within 4 hours of being notified. Apart from in exceptional circumstances, this means that we will visit your property, or any associate assets (eg pumping station) to investigate.
If you have notified us of flooding, we can provide you with a letter of explanation about the cause of the flooding within 10 working days.
Under the Water Industry Act 1991, sewerage companies are generally not liable for flooding from public sewers. Ofwat accepts this exemption as flooding can be beyond the control of the water companies. For example, household discharges such as grease, fat and domestic waste can lead to blockages beyond the control of the companies. Ofwat also noted that “sewers will overflow from time to time during periods of exceptional weather”.
Similarly, without the exemption, sewerage companies would face large liabilities for sewer flooding which would lead to substantial increases in customers’ bills. For a sewerage company to be held liable, it has to be proven that it has been negligent i.e. we have done something, or failed to do something, which resulted in the flooding.
You are strongly advised to take out insurance cover for any damage caused by sewer flooding to your property.
In certain circumstances we may be required to pay compensation to customers for sewer flooding and you can find this information in Guaranteed Standard Services section.
Your toilets, sinks, showers, washing machines, dishwashers and baths all empty into waste pipes flowing into the sewers. Blockages in your pipes can prevent waste leaving your property and cause bad smells. Blockages can also make it difficult for baths and showers to drain, and if this wastewater is unable to drain away, it can come back flooding your home.
There can be a number of reasons why a sewer floods, including as a result of blockages, collapses or even vandalism. Sewer blockages can be caused by customers disposing of unsuitable items down their drains.
Avoid flushing the following items down your drains:
- FAT (food, oil and grease solidify as they cool and thus block pipes and sewers)
- Sanitary towels, tampons and applicators, nappies, cotton buds, bandages, plasters, condoms, chemicals, medicines and wet wipes
Property owners are responsible for the pipes in their property and pipes connecting their wastewater to our sewers. The Wastewater Pipe Ownership diagram shows who is responsible for which pipe.
If you think you have a blockage, please call 0330 111 0780 to report it and we will investigate. If we find that the blockage is within our network of pipes, we will clear it for free. If the blockage is within your pipe, we may be able to clear the blockage but for a charge. We will confirm this with you during our visit.
In July 2011 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) passed the Private Sewerage transfer regulations which meant the following:
- Part 1: sewerage companies became responsible for private sewers/drains from 1 October 2011
- Part 2: sewerage companies will become responsible for private pumping stations from 1 October 2016, which meet the eligibility criteria.
The change in law means the ownership and maintenance for previously private sewers and lateral drains transferred to the incumbent waste water provider on 1 October 2011. Please note that you are still responsible for the sections of pipe between your property/building and the transferred private sewer or lateral drain.