New laws, which came into force in October 2011, have seen many private drains transfer to the ownership of a water authority. This means that a drain crossing your property, which was previously private, may now be a public sewer. Generally, the transfer applies to any drain which serves more than one property.
The advantage to a householder of the change is that the water authority will now be responsible for any repairs or maintenance to that drain. However, the water authority may impose restrictions on you if you are planning building works.
In terms of the building regulations, nothing changes initially because the legal requirement in the regulations refers to drains which are shown on a map of sewers. The newly transferred drains are not yet shown on the water authority map of sewers and so not subject to the regulations, though this may change gradually. We would still advise, however, that you contact the water authority before carrying out any work within three metres of a drain if it has transferred to their ownership.
For further information on the transfer of existing sewers, visit the Water UK website.
Adoption of new drains
A further part of the sewer transfer legislation came into force in October 2012 affecting new drainage installations within Welsh Water’s operational area.
If as part of any new development you are installing drains which meet the criteria for public sewers described above (for example, any drain or part of a drain serving more than one property) then this drainage will in all cases be adopted by Welsh Water when complete.
In these circumstances you must by law enter into a formal adoption agreement with Welsh Water before any part of the drain is installed.
We, therefore, advise developers to engage with Welsh Water at the earliest opportunity to avoid delays and/or enforcement action.
For further information on the new sewer adoption procedures along with contact details, visit Welsh Water’s changes to sewer adoption and connection page.
If your property or site is not within Welsh Water’s operational area then this October 2012 legislation does not yet apply, but is expected to come into force across the rest of England during the first half of 2013.