Drainage Explained


When drains and sewers become blocked, or repairs are required, there is often confusion about who has responsibility.


There is an important distinction between drains and sewers:-

  • A drain is a pipe which carries foul and/or surface water from one property
  • A sewer is a pipe which carries foul and/or surface water from more than one property; thus when two drains join, the pipe becomes a sewer.
  • Other definitions of note include a...
    • lateral drain is that part of a drain which serves a single property but which lies outside that property’s curtilage
    • pumping station means that part of a sewer or lateral drain which is a pumping station and includes the rising main (the pressurised pipe that connects the pumping station with the rest of the sewer or lateral drain)

How do I know if it is my drain that is blocked?

If your drain is blocked you will usually know because your waste will stop going away when you flush the toilet, or gullies outside will overflow. There will also probably be a smell. Private drains/sewers are the responsibility of the owner-occupier and any other properties connected to it.

Why does the council become involved? - Enforcing Statutory Drainage Legislation

If a blockage or defect occurs in a drain or private sewer and it is not rectified, the council has legal powers that enable it to require the clearance of any blockage, or the undertaking of any necessary repair works, so as to prevent conditions prejudicial to health arising.

This may include the service of a notice. Failure to comply with such a notice is an offence and can lead to prosecution. If the works detailed in the notice are not carried out, the council may also undertake the works and recover their costs, plus an administration charge, from those responsible.

Household insurance may cover the costs of any such works providing it is not due to normal wear and tear. If repairs are required you should let your insurance company know as soon as possible.

This information has set out some of the issues, which often arise concerning drains and sewers. If you are unclear as to who has responsibility for drains and sewers in your area please complete an Environment Health Enquiry.