Drains and sewers

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Drains and sewers definitions

The number of properties that a pipe serves and where it is in relation to those properties generally determines whether it is a drain or sewer.

The following are some general definitions:

  • Drain: a drainage pipe serving just one property
  • Sewer: a drainage pipe serving more than one property
  • Public sewer: a sewer adopted by the sewerage undertaker
  • Private sewer: a sewer owned by all the homeowners served by the pipe
  • Lateral drain: a drainage pipe that serves a single property but is outside the boundary of that property

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Responsibility for drains and sewers

Sewers and drains are either the responsibility of homeowners or the sewerage undertaker, which in this area is Southern Water.

Since 1st October 2011, most sewers and lateral drains have been adopted by Southern Water and become public sewers.

In general terms:

  • a drain on your property which serves only your property is the homeowner's responsibility to maintain, repair and unblock where necessary.
  • a drain which serves only your property but which is located on someone else's land is the responsibility of Southern Water.
  • a private sewer which serves more than one household is the responsibility of Southern Water.
  • drainage which serves blocks of flats, commercial buildings and more unusual situations may vary from the above and should be discussed directly with Southern Water

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Blocked or damaged drains

If your drain is blocked you will usually know because your waste will stop going away when you flush the toilet, or gullies outside will overflow. There will also probably be a smell.

  • Drains may block because they are in poor physical condition and normal contents are not being cleared.
  • They may be in satisfactory condition but have been abused by flushing away disposable nappies or other items such as plastic bags that should never be placed into the sewerage system.
  • Excessive disposal of cooking fats and oils, along with other domestic products and DIY materials such as plaster, can cause blockage of the pipe work.
  • Tree roots entering a broken drain can also be a problem.

To avoid blocking your drains, follow Southern Water's advice on:

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Blocked road gulleys

West Sussex County Council - WSCC - smallSurface water drainage of roads and footpaths is the responsibility of West Sussex County Council, except for the A27 which is the Highway Agency's.

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Drain clearing - houses

If you have a problem with drainage serving your property try to assess whether it is just your property that is affected.

If it is then you should call a private drainage clearance company.

If other properties are also affected or you are not sure contact Southern Water.

Full information and contact details can be found on the Southern Water website.

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Reporting drainage issue relating to a food business

If a drain which serves only a food premises is blocked please report this to the Public Health & Regulation Team:

If other properties are also affected, contact Southern Water. Full contact details can be found on the Southern Water website.

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Misconnected Drains

Misconnected drains can pollute local streams, rivers and beaches, damage wildlife and put our health at risk. The 'Connect Right' campaign aims to reduce such pollution by raising awareness and understanding about such misconnections and help property owners and professionals check drainage connections and take action.

For information and advice please see:

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Page last updated: 23 June 2020