Surface water drainage

Water and sewerage companies have to remove and process the rain water which falls on properties and then flows directly or indirectly into the public drainage systems. This is known as surface water drainage.

This is an essential service. Without good upkeep of the drainage system, the likelihood of surface water flooding and sewer flooding would increase dramatically. The companies collect around £1 billion each year to cover the costs of providing surface water drainage service.

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

  • a fee in the standing charge
  • a charge based on the rateable value of the property
  • as part of the volumetric rate
  • a charge based on the site area of your property

In 2003 we reviewed how non-household customers are charged for surface water drainage. We recommended that charges should more closely reflect how much surface water drains off a property so that customers broadly pay for the service they receive. We consider that the area of a site is the best indicator of how much rain water drains from a property. You can find out more in our ‘Charging for surface water drainage by site area‘ section.

Currently four sewerage companies base their charges for surface water drainage on the area of the site. Severn Trent Water started charging by site area in 1990-91, Yorkshire Water in 2001-02, Northumbrian Water in 2005-06 and most recently United Utilities in 2007.


Highway drainage

Water that drains from roads and footpaths flows into public drainage systems. This is known as highway drainage. Water companies recover the costs of providing highway drainage from their customers. Highway drainage benefits everyone that uses the road system, so there is a case for recovering the costs directly from roads authorities or users. However, legislation prevents this.

In a report ‘Water charging in England and Wales’ published in 1998 the government indicated that it had no plans to change legislation as there would be little benefit in the changes and it would otherwise have to be collected through charges such as council tax.