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Responsibility for water and sewerage pipes

Water companies keep up to date maps of sewers and water mains for which they are responsible. Most but not all pipes within an individual property boundary are the property owner’s responsibility to maintain.

Water pipes

Responsibility for the pipework that supplies clean water is shared between property owners and water companies.

There are three different types of water pipes.

  1. Water mains are the large company pipes that distribute water around the network. They are often, but not always, laid under highways.
  2. Communication pipes carry water between the water mains and the boundary of private property. If a company stop-tap has been fitted, this will normally mark the end of pipework that is the responsibility of the company and pipework that is the responsibility of the property owner. Not all properties will have their own stop-tap in the footpath but where one has been fitted, this is normally the responsibility of the company to maintain.
  3. Supply pipes are the smaller pipes that carry water from company pipework into the property. Supply pipes run from the boundary of the property (where there may be a company stop-tap) up until the first water fitting or stop-tap inside the property. Stop-taps along the length of the supply pipe, and any water fittings, are the property owner’s responsibility to maintain.

Usually, responsibility for different types of water pipes is as shown in the table and diagram below. However, there may be special cases in some areas, and you should contact your water company, and consult the deeds to your property to find out more.

Type of pipe Laid underResponsibility for pipe
Water mains Highway Water company
Property owner’s land
Land owned by someone else
Communication pipe Highway Water company
Supply pipe serving a single property HighwayProperty owner
Property owner’s land
Land owned by someone else
Shared supply pipe serving more than one property HighwayJoint responsibility of all property owners served by pipe
Land owned by any of the property owners served by the pipe
Land owned by someone else

Supply pipe repairs

You must maintain the supply pipes that are your responsibility. This includes leak detection, repairs and replacement. You should contact your water company to find out if they offer help for subsidised or free repairs.

Each company must have a code of practice which sets out how they address any leakage from household supply pipes.

If you have a water meter and your bill was abnormally high because of leakage that has since been repaired, you may be able to claim an allowance for the cost of water lost. You should contact your water company for more information. Companies have specific responsibilities to check supply pipes for leakage when meters are fitted and to carry out repairs where no further excavation is required to do this work.

If your company has recorded leakage in your area but cannot source the leak to their pipes, they may issue a legal notice under the Water Industry Act 1991 to inform you of a potential private leak and your legal requirement to fix it. This notice will advise you of timescales. If you do not fix the problems in the time allowed, the company can carry out the works and pass on the costs to you.

Water companies are responsible for the maintenance of communication pipes and mains which includes leak detection, repairs and replacement where necessary. If the company carries out work on pipework for which they are responsible, including laying new mains, they must follow a code of practice, which is available from the company.

Sewers and drains

Responsibility for sewers and drains is shared between property owners, water and sewerage companies, local authorities and the Highways Agency.

Sewerage companies’ responsibilities

Sewerage companies are responsible for the public sewers. These are usually in roads or public open spaces, but may run through private gardens. The sewerage company has a right of access to these sewers for maintenance. If the company carries out work on sewers on your land they must follow a code of practice, which is available from the company.

Property owner's responsibilities

The drains which carry household waste are normally the property owner's (or the landlord's) responsibility up until the boundary of the property where they connect to public sewers. There will often be a company maintained manhole at that point. Your sewerage company will advise you about investigations and help available in the event of blockages or flooding. They may advise you of charges that may apply for carrying out work to private drains.

Responsibility for maintaining private sewers outside the boundaries of private property have mostly been transferred to sewerage companies as from 1 October 2011. The exceptions to this are private sewers which only conveyed rainwater to watercourses and some privately owned pumping stations. Find out more about the transfer of private sewers.

Local authorities’ responsibilities

Local authorities function as landlords for council houses and are responsible for maintaining the supply pipes and drains for these properties. They are responsible for maintaining some highway drains

Highways Agency’s responsibilities

In England, the Highways Agency is responsible for maintaining some highway drains.

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