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Transfer of private sewers and lateral drains to water and sewerage companies

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Our Strategic Policy Position Statement on Water (2009) included a commitment to transfer responsibility for private sewers and lateral drains to sewerage undertakers, which has now been met.

Private sewers and lateral drains

A private sewer is a pipe not owned and cared for by the Water and Sewerage Companies that carries water from more than one property. Before the transfer, they were maintained by the owners or occupiers of the properties connected to them.

Many property owners were unaware that they may have had a sewer serving their property which was their responsibility.

A drain is a pipe that carries water away from a single property. Drains continue to belong to the owner of the property they are connected to.  

A lateral drain is the part of a drain which lies outside the property boundary. Lateral drains connect a drain to a public sewer. Laterals were the responsibility of individual property owners and have now transferred to the Water and Sewerage companies.

Benefits the transfer has given

For sewers connected to the public sewerage system on the 1 July 2011, the overnight transfer of ownership and responsibility to the sewerage companies happened on 1 October 2011. For sewers connected between 1 July 2011 and 1 October 2012 the transfer happened on 1 April 2013. The benefits of the transfer are:

  • greater clarity over ownership,
  • more effective management of the sewerage network,
  • removal of the burden of maintenance from householders by spreading the cost across all customers.

For further details please visit the Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water website (external link).

Legislation and regulations

Powers to implement the private sewer and lateral drain transfer were given in amendments to section 105 of the Water Industry Act 1991 (external link) introduced by the Water Act 2003 (external link).

The transfer has been enabled by the Water Industry (Schemes for Adoption of Private Sewers) Regulations 2011.

The Regulations required the sewerage companies to notify all of their customers of their intention to take over responsibility for all private sewers and lateral drains in their areas. This was specified in the scheme made by Welsh Ministers.

The notices are statutory notifications under section 102 of the Water Industry Act 1991 of the proposal to take ownership of the sewers specified in the notice.

We have published non-statutory guidance to accompany the Regulations.