Surface water and highway drainage

Surface water drainage occurs when rainwater falls on a property and drains away.

Most rainwater falling on properties drains into public sewers owned by the ten water and sewerage companies in England and Wales. These companies are responsible for removing and processing this rainwater. If rainwater drains from your property into a public sewer, you will be charged for surface water drainage through your sewerage bill.

You will pay for surface water drainage in your bill in one of the following ways:

  • a fee in the standing charge
  • a volumetric charge based on the amount of water you use
  • a charge based on the rateable value of your property
  • through a charge related to the type of property you live in

If rainwater does not drain from your property into a public sewer, because you have a soakaway or similar, you may be entitled to a surface water drainage rebate. Your company provides information about the qualification criteria and the level of any rebate in its charges scheme, which is published on its website.

Applying for a surface water drainage rebate

If no surface water from your property enters a public sewer then you may qualify for a reduction in your sewerage charge (‘surface water drainage rebate’).

Companies do not know the surface water drainage arrangements of all the individual properties in its area. This means that you usually need to make an application for a rebate.

You should apply to your company providing evidence that none of your surface water enters the public sewer. Your company should explain the kind of evidence that it would need to see. They will check whether you qualify and if you do:

  • you will not be charged for surface water drainage on future bills
  • some of the amount you paid previously may be refunded

Sometimes your company does know, or might reasonably be expected to have known, that your property was not connected to its sewerage system for surface water drainage. In this case we would expect it to apply the rebate (and refund any money overpaid) from the date at which it knew (or might reasonably be expected to have known) the property was not connected.

You do not need to use a third party to apply for a rebate, you can apply directly to your company.

If you have problems with a surface water drainage rebate application, and you are unable to resolve them with your company, you should contact the Consumer Council for Water.

Highway drainage

Water that drains from roads and footpaths flows into public drainage systems. This is known as highway drainage. Water companies are allowed under legislation to recover the costs of providing highway drainage from their customers regardless of the extent to which they directly benefit from the road system.