Is there a difference between a drain and a sewer?
There are specific definitions in law for sewers and drains. A drain is a pipe that takes sewage from only one house. A sewer is a pipe that carries sewage from two or more houses.
If you experience problems with highway drainage please contact Gloucestershire County Council's highways department. Contact them by ringing the freephone number 08000 514514 or visit their website
Main public sewers
Public sewers are generally laid in publicly accessible areas such as roads and footpaths, but some may run under private gardens, fields etc. These are the responsibility of the relevant water company and part of your water charges pay for the unblocking and upkeep of these main sewers and the associated sewage treatment works. Public sewers are recorded on the statutory sewer record held by the council and are available for viewing by prior appointment. Copies of the record (A4 size) are only available direct from the relevant water company. If the sewer which serves your house was constructed before October 1937 and served more than one property it may also be classified as a public sewer unless you have made any alterations to it. All other sewers built after 1937 are termed 'private sewers' unless they have been specifically adopted by the relevant water company.On the 1st October 2011 the government will be transferring all sewage pipes connected to the main sewerage system prior to the 1st July 2011 outside your property boundaries and all sewage pipes within your boundary which are shared with another property to the sewage/water companies. Privately owned pumping stations which meet the adoption criteria will also be transferred to the sewage/water companies on or before 1st October 2016. Drainage pipes within your property boundarym which serve just your property, will remain your responsibility.
If you experience problems with the main public sewers please contact the relevant water company - either Severn Trent on 0800 7834444 or Welsh Water on 0800 085 3968.
Private sewerage system
The owners or occupiers of the houses which use the private sewerage system (not connected to the mains) are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the system including all private sewers/drains regardless of who's land the sewer is on.
Who is responsible for clearing blocked drains and sewers?
This all depends on what type of drain or sewer it is:
- If the blocked sewer is public, the relevant water company for your area will clear it, usually free of charge
- If it is a drain that serves your house only, you alone are responsible
- If you are a tenant of a housing association you should contact your housing association or
If you are a tenant of a rented property then the situation may be complicated and you should contact your landlord for advice
- If the sewer is part of a private sewerage system, the property owners/occupiers who share the private sewer should clear it at their own expense
Shouldn't all the other houses that use the sewer have to pay some of the costs?
Strictly speaking, yes. The private sewer is the joint responsibility of all those houses that use it and they should pay equal amounts of the cost of any clearance or maintenance work.
If you do not want to be responsible for arranging to have a private sewer cleared yourself then the council can serve a legal notice on all of the houses involved, requiring them to clear the sewer within 48 hours of receiving the notice. If after 48 hours the sewer remains blocked, we will clear it and each of the houses will be charged an equal amount which will include a charge for administration, investigation and clearance of the blockage.
My sewer keeps blocking - what can I do?
If a drain private/sewer blocks regularly it may indicate that the pipe is faulty or scaling up. To establish the cause of the fault on the sewer a closed circuit television camera (CCTV) survey can be used to detect where and what the problem is. The council does not carry out this service and it is recommended that you find a private company to do this for you. You can find a list of these in the 'Drain and Pipe Cleaning' section of the Yellow Pages.
Is there anything that I shouldn't put down my toilet or drain?
Nappies and sanitary towels should not be flushed down the toilet. They can easily cause blockages in pipes and should be hygienically disposed of.
Tipping cooking fat or oil down the sink also causes problems. Over time the fat coats and builds up on the inside of the sewer reducing the flow in the pipe and may cause it to block. You also shouldn't flush engine oil, paint or other dangerous chemicals down the toilet. These can not only cause damage to the sewer but also cause pollution. To get rid of chemicals you should contact a chemical reclamation firm or you may be able to dispose of them at your local Household Recycling Centre.
If you would like more advice on sewers and drainage, what to do when the sewer blocks and who should pay please contact us on 01594 810000 or the drainage section on 01594 812263. If no one is available please leave a message and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.