Our licence, issued by the government, governs the way we operate our business and also controls the extent to which we can vary our charges each year.
The government’s Drinking Water Inspectorate ensures that we meet standards set by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for drinking water quality.
The Environment Agency regulates how much water we can abstract from rivers and wells. It also specifies the quantity and quality of effluent we can discharge to rivers and the sea.
The government-appointed, independent Water Services Regulation Authority (WSRA), also known as ‘Ofwat’, ensures that customers’ interests are protected and that we comply with our licence by:
- controlling the overall increases we can make in our charges
- approving the standards of service we must provide
- defining information we must give customers
This Code of Practice is a requirement of licence condition G and is approved by, and regularly reviewed by, Ofwat.
Consumer Council for Water
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) is the customer watchdog, set up to make sure the consumers’ collective voice is heard in the water debate and that consumers are pushed to, and then remain, at the heart of the water industry’s thinking. They represent customers of water and sewerage companies in England and Wales.
Click on the headings below:
- Message from the Chief Executive
Our aim at Southern Water is to provide a high level of service at all times. We want all our customers to be satisfied with the services we provide. That is why we have produced this Code of Practice, which tells you about:
- The services we provide
- The terms and conditions on which they are available
- Our commitment to you as our customer
- Where and how to get advice and help
With over four million customers, an area of 10,550 km2, more than three thousand treatment works and pumping stations, and a vast network of water mains and sewers, there will be problems from time to time. When things do go wrong, we will aim to put them right as soon as possible, and do all we can to avoid a repeat event.
I can assure you that I will continue to set high standards for Southern Water and for our customers. To ensure these high standards continue to be met you can contact us 24 hours a day with any difficulties you may have on your water supply or wastewater services, by calling 0845 278 0845.
We also take water leaks very seriously, and we are doing everything we can to minimise the amount of water lost from our distribution network. So, should you discover a leak on our water mains, we have a 24 hour free phone line for you to call on 0800 820 999 to report the leak.
Further details on our standards and how to contact us can be found within this Code of Practice, which I hope you will find useful and keep for reference.
Chief Executive Officer
- Our promises for domestic customers
We are committed to serving our customers. Our Code of Practice describes the services we provide and the high standards you should expect of us. It emphasises our commitment to provide a first class service at all times. If you are dissatisfied, we will put things right, if we can, and consider the payment of compensation where appropriate.
Our promises are to:
- Offer excellent service to our customers
- Meet stringent UK and European standards for drinking water quality and wastewater treatment
- Set high standards for customer service, ensuring customers can see the standards we have achieved
- Rectify poor service and pay compensation where appropriate
- Repair leaks in our pipework quickly, save water and reduce costs
- Give you a choice of the ways you can pay
- Give value for money to our customers all the time
- The Company
Your water and wastewater services company
We provide drinking water and wastewater services to customers in Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and small parts of Wiltshire, Berkshire and Surrey.
You may receive both services from us or only one. If one service is provided by another water company, you will receive a separate bill for each service. The addresses and telephone numbers of other water companies are given on their bills or can be found in the telephone directory. Their website addresses are also here.
How you can contact us
If you have an enquiry or complaint about your water, wastewater service or your bill, you should contact our Customer Service Centre. You can contact us:
Via our website
If you are moving house, and have a water meter, please contact us (see details below) and give us at least two working days advance notice.
Visit contact us where there are a number of simple forms which will allow you to contact us
In writing by post
You can contact us by post at the following address:
PO Box 41
For billing enquiries, you can contact us between 08:00 and 20:00 Monday to Friday and Saturday 08:00 to 17:00
On telephone number: 0845 272 0845
Or use Minicom on: 0845 275 0845 (service for the deaf and hard of hearing).
We also provide facilities, 24 hours a day, to pay your bill, tell us about moving house, apply for Direct Debit or payment card, call 0845 270 1508.
If you are experiencing difficulties in relation to your water supply or wastewater services, you can contact us at any time of the day or night on telephone number: 0845 278 0845.
Visit in person
You can visit our Worthing office at the address shown on the front page of this document between 08:30 and 17:00 Monday to Friday.
In writing by fax
You can fax your enquiry on fax number: 01903 535060
If you have an enquiry or complaint about your account, please ensure you quote your customer number, which is shown at the top of each bill.
If we are not responsible for your problem, we will advise you where you can get further help.
If we have an incident, which is likely to affect you we will tell you about it using loudspeaker vans, local radio, TV, by text or in writing, whichever is quickest and most appropriate to the incident.
Our Rights of Entry
Under certain circumstances we have the right to enter properties and land. This is usually so that we can investigate compliance with the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 (WSR 1999) or take samples to check water quality. We call at reasonable times and will give you appropriate notice. This is 24 hours for investigation of regulation compliance or for monitoring water quality and seven days in all other cases. If we have not given you that notice you may refuse entry, unless there is an emergency.
All Southern Water Services staff carry identity cards which show their photograph, our logo, and a telephone number to ring to confirm they are genuine. STOP before you answer the door and be A W A R E
• Attach your door chain before opening the door to strangers
• Water company staff always carry identification
• A company uniform and vehicle with logo are things to watch for
• Remember, if you are unsure, keep them out and either telephone us on 0845 278 0845 (24 hours) or the local police
• Employees of Southern Water will always be happy to wait.
For everyone who feels vulnerable or nervous of callers we have a password scheme, details of which are available from our Customer Service Centre on 0845 272 0845.
Southern Water joined forces with Water Companies across the UK, police and government to raise national awareness of these callous conmen who prey on the elderly and vulnerable.
The national knock knock! who’s there? be stranger aware! campaign, which is supported by the Home Office, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Water UK and the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) aims to raise national awareness to all age groups to help prevent this distressing crime.
- Drinking water
The chemical and bacteriological quality of water is specified in regulations issued by the Secretary of State, based on European Union Directives. We must supply water that complies with the regulations. All water we supply is of high quality.
HOWEVER, IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR WATER HAS BECOME UNFIT TO DRINK, CONTACT US IMMEDIATELY ON:
0845 278 0845
It is manned 24 hours a day. DO NOT DRINK THE WATER UNTIL YOU HAVE SPOKEN TO US.
In exceptional circumstances, the Company will inform customers to boil their water via a media campaign, hand card delivery and mass card delivery.
We must regularly sample and test the water we supply to customers in accordance with regulations. If, following a complaint, we take a sample of your tap water, we will give you details of our analysis and the required water quality standards.
You can see a water quality report for the area in which you live by visiting ‘In Your Area’ on our website. Alternatively, you can request a copy by contacting our Customer Service Centre (See section 2.2 for our address and telephone number).
The Drinking Water Inspectorate carries out a rigorous audit of our sampling and test records each year. They also check that we have responded properly to customers' complaints on water quality.
Southern water abstract nearly 70 per cent of water from underground sources, the remaining 30 per cent is taken from above ground sources, i.e. rivers or reservoirs.
We must provide a continuous supply of water for your domestic needs, i.e. for drinking, washing, cooking, heating and sanitation, and for outside use, like watering the garden and washing the car, Whilst we do not have to supply water for hosepipe use, we do aim to ensure that, in normal circumstances, you may use a hosepipe if you wish (as per the Company Water Resources Plan). We have a policy of charging by volume for garden sprinklers, unattended watering devices, swimming pools (with a capacity of 20 cubic meters / 440 gallons or more) and recreational pools. We will install a meter at no charge to any household customer requesting one, provided that it is practicable to do so and can be achieved at reasonable cost to ourselves. A leaflet on these policies is available free of charge from the Household Metering Service Centre, telephone number 0845 270 0845.
Our water supply sources are designed to standards that provide reliable supplies to meet normal demand under drought conditions that might occur once in 50 years. To provide plant to meet greater demand would cost more and the extra capacity would lie idle most of the time. In times of prolonged drought we may have to restrict the use of hosepipes so that everyone can receive adequate supplies for essential purposes. However, you may still water your garden using watering cans and buckets. If we do have to restrict the use of hosepipes, this will apply to all customers within the attested water resource area and include those who have been metered under our garden sprinkler scheme.
We continue to increase the amount of water available by reducing leakage from the distribution system and developing new sources to meet the growth in demand. We aim to ensure that hosepipe bans are kept to a minimum. We have been investing heavily in new resources and large water transfer pipelines linking Southern Water's areas to ensure that they will be minimised. Where we need to impose restrictions, we will ensure that all affected customers are informed.
Sometimes we have to interrupt the supply to carry out essential maintenance work to our water mains. Normally we will notify you when water will be cut off and when it will be restored. Occasionally, in an emergency, this may not be possible. You should contact the Customer Service Centre on 0845 278 0845 for further information in these circumstances. If the interruption lasts for more than 24 hours we must provide an alternative supply. We will meet the requirements of the Guaranteed Standards Scheme for interruptions, which is described in section 13.
As part of our commitment to reduce leakage from the distribution system we carry out leakage checks at night. If we are making checks in your area your supply may, very occasionally, be interrupted for up to 45 minutes between 1am and 4am. Because the disruption is slight we do not normally warn customers in advance. However, if such an interruption would be likely to cause you problems please contact our Customer Service Centre.
We must supply water at a pressure which will ensure it reaches the top of every building, except where this is greater than the height to which it will flow by gravity from our service reservoir.
To achieve this we aim to supply water at the stop tap on the boundary of your property at a minimum pressure of 10 metres head. This gives a minimum flow from a ground floor tap of 9 litres per minute, equivalent to filling a one-gallon bucket in 30 seconds. In practice we aim to do better than this. Sometimes lower pressure can occur, but this should not be for more than one hour in twenty-four. If the pressure falls below 7.0 metres static head for more than one hour, on more than one occasion in any 28-day period we will pay £25 under the Guaranteed Standards Scheme. See Section 13 for further details.
Pressure and flow are affected by several factors:
- The height of your property in relation to our water main and our service reservoir
- The condition of your private supply pipe
- If the stop tap is not turned on sufficiently
- Whether your property shares a supply pipe with any other property
- Peak demand conditions
If you think your water pressure is too low contact our Customer Service Centre. We will investigate the cause free of charge and advise what action can be taken.
Pipe ownership and responsibilities
Your property is connected to our water main via a communication pipe and a supply pipe:
- The communication pipe usually runs from our water main to the boundary of your property - frequently the front garden wall or fence - and is our responsibility. It usually incorporates our stop tap box which is located in the pavement or verge. This stop tap is used for turning off the mains water supply
- The supply pipe usually runs from the boundary to inside your property and is your responsibility
It is your responsibility to maintain your supply pipe in good order, even when it runs under other properties before reaching yours. Most properties have a separate stop tap where the supply pipe enters the building. You are advised to locate and operate this stop tap to ensure it can be shut in an emergency.
Unfortunately, not all supply arrangements are this simple. You may share a communication pipe with one or more of your neighbours. This length of pipe is our responsibility but the supply pipes connected to it are the responsibility of the customers sharing the supply.
Sometimes customers find shared supplies inadequate. We will lay a separate communication pipe free of charge from our main to the street boundary where the following conditions apply:
- Where the supply fails to meet the flow and pressure criteria
- Where there is a presence of lead
- Where the supply is being compromised by an excessive number of leaks
In all cases the extent of our work will be limited to the provision of a separate communication pipe and/or boundary box. Customers will be required to separate all private pipework at their cost.
If you wish to take advantage of this offer you must discuss this in advance with the Network Development Department who can be contacted via the Customer Service Centre on 0845 278 0845.
We prefer there to be a separate supply pipe to each individual property. We may have to ask you to provide a separate supply pipe, but would expect to do this only if the shared supply pipe has become so defective or insufficient as to need replacement, if new or converted properties are connected to it, if there has been interference with a customer’s supply or if charges are outstanding. In these cases, you will need to provide the separate supply pipe yourself or bear the cost of the work undertaken. If you dispute our requirement for the supply pipe to be separated the matter can be referred to Ofwat for determination (see Section 15 for details).
If you are buying a property, make sure your solicitor checks the arrangements for the water supply and charges, particularly if the property is jointly supplied or the pipe crosses someone else’s property. New properties which we supply should have a separate service, even if they are flats formed from the conversion of an existing building.
We may want to lay or work on a pipe in land which you own or occupy. We have statutory powers to do this and have rights of entry to the land to lay and maintain the pipe. We will endeavour to fit in with owners’ or occupiers’ reasonable requirements and act in accordance with our Code of Practice for the Exercise of Pipelaying Powers. Find out more information in this leaflet.
Leakage in our system
Reducing water loss, repairing leaks on our mains and preventing bursts are a top priority for us and we are very proud of our record in this important area. We have specialist teams working day and night to check for hidden leaks in our underground pipes. You can help us by reporting leaks on our mains on the following freephone 24-hour number:
LEAKLINE FREEPHONE TELEPHONE NUMBER 0800 820 999
We aim to repair leaks reported during a working day by the end of the following working day. Leaks reported out of normal working hours will be repaired between the beginning of the next working day and the end of the following working day.
Leakage on pipework owned by customers
Customers have the responsibility to repair leaks on their own pipework. However, we offer customers assistance by providing the following services:
Repair or renewal of customer supply pipes
We will repair leaks free of charge on the underground supply pipes of domestic customers wherever it is practicable to do so. The following conditions apply:
- We will repair up to three leaks on each domestic supply pipe free of charge for the period of occupancy by the customer
- If the pipe continues to leak following completion of the free repairs the customer will be advised that the pipe requires renewal, which will be offered at cost (unless made of lead - see below). Should the customer insist on additional repairs, rather than replacement, these will be charged at cost
- We will not undertake repairs inside or under a dwelling, or within footings of the property
- We will replace, free of charge, up to 10 metres of domestic supply pipe where it is made of lead and found to be leaking
- All other materials and lead supply pipes greater than 10 metres in length will be replaced at cost should renewal be necessary
- Where renewal, rather than repair, is deemed to be the best option, this will be offered to the customer at the subsidised cost
- Where practicable for supply pipe renewals, we will replace as far as the internal stop tap
- Our target is to complete all repairs in 10 days, with 80% completed in 5 days. We will aim to complete all replacements within 10 working days from receipt of the customer’s acceptance
- We will back-fill the excavation but complete only limited surface reinstatement on hardstandings or ornamental areas
- We will provide a 24-hour emergency supply pipe repair service to cover occasions where it is considered necessary to effect immediate or urgent repairs
- We will guarantee our workmanship and materials supplied for a period of one year from completion of the repair or renewal
Leakage detection service
We offer a free leakage detection service of up to one hour for domestic customers. This free service applies to supply pipes below 50 metres in length. For services over 50 metres we can provide leak detection at cost.
If you require any of these services or would like further information please contact our Customer Service Centre.
If you have a meter you will be paying for any water wasted from your pipework. We have a Code of Practice on Leakage, which may give you some assistance in these circumstances. The code is free and is available from our Customer Service Centre.
Leakage checks when a meter is first installed
When we fit a meter, a check is made to establish if there is any leakage on the supply pipe.
• If a leak is detected on the supply pipe and it can be repaired without additional excavation at that time, it will be done at our expense
• If a leak is detected which cannot be repaired without additional excavation, we will notify you of the leak and arrange for it to be repaired free of charge subject to the conditions mentioned below.
If you are paying metered charges, we will correct both water supply and wastewater charges to reflect the extra amount of water recorded because of the leak once it has been repaired. We normally re-calculate your metered charges based on past usage. Where there is no record of past consumption, the adjustment will be based on typical usage for a property of a similar type. Charges will be adjusted back to the previous bill for metered customers. For those customers who have not previously received a bill then the re-calculated charges will be back dated to the beginning of the financial year.
There will be no adjustment of charges if any of the following applies:
• Another leak occurs after an adjustment for an earlier leak
• You (or someone else living with you) caused the leak by acting negligently
• You knew, or could reasonably be expected to have known, that there was a leak and you failed to repair it or tell us about it
• The leak occurred because of faulty pipes or fittings inside your home
• You did not repair the leak within a reasonable period.
If we have repaired your supply pipe the adjustment to your account will be made automatically. If you believe you may be entitled to an adjustment to your bill after making repairs yourself, or you believe that an adjustment to your bill should have been made but has not been, you should contact our Customer Service Centre within 18 months of receiving the bill requiring adjustment.
Some older properties still have lead supply pipes and internal plumbing and some lead can be transferred from them into the water (see Note 1). In appropriate areas special treatment has been installed to reduce the level of lead picked up from lead pipework.
If you decide to replace your lead supply pipe, other than as part of property conversion works, we will replace our communication pipe free of charge if it is also lead.
If we find a raised lead concentration in the water from your drinking water tap we will tell you. We must also tell your local Environmental Health Officer. We will also replace the communication pipe serving your property free of charge if it is lead.
You should contact your local council, which may have grants available to assist you with the replacement of lead pipes.
Our water mains records are available for inspection free of charge during working hours at the Customer Service Centre.
Safe earthing of electrical appliances in your house is your responsibility and your water service pipe should not be used for earthing your household electrical installation.
Unfortunately, many houses (particularly those built before 1966) still rely on the water pipe as an earth. If your house is one of these, please remember that the increasing use of plastic water pipes reduces the effectiveness of your water pipe as an earth.
Where we have carried out work on your communication pipe, we will notify you, advising you of the possible effect on your electrical earthing. We also strongly advise you to have your electrical system tested as soon as possible and brought up to standard if found to be defective.
Note 1: high lead level can have adverse health impact (especially in small children and pregnant women)
You should consult your local electricity supply company for advice on electrical earthing.
Changes in Arrangements – New water connections
If you meet the relevant conditions, we must connect your property to a water main at your request. Although you must pay for it, we will provide the connection into the main and the communication pipe from the main to the external stop tap. You are not allowed to make the connection into our main yourself and we must lay any part of your supply pipe which involves digging up the public highway. If you want a new or altered connection, you should contact the Customer Service Centre for information.
We require all new properties to have a separate communication pipe and a water meter. Once permission has been granted and payment received we will, where reasonably practicable:
• Make the connection as soon as possible once the supply pipe is laid and within 21 days; or
• If the whole pipe from the property to our water main is already laid, we will make the connection within 14 days of you giving us notice.
If we fail to connect your house within the 14 or 21 days allowed, without a valid reason, we may be liable to you for loss or damage caused.
Changes in Arrangements – New water connection charges
Costs and charges are payable for new connections. These are:
• The cost of making the connection to the main
• The cost of providing and laying our communication pipe together with a charge for installing a meter
• An infrastructure charge, which contributes to the cost of local reinforcement to the distribution system. The maximum amount we can charge is fixed by our licence and is varied annually in line with the Retail Price Index. It is payable for premises newly connected. A separate infrastructure charge will also be payable for connection to the sewerage system
• Infrastructure Credits: where the site was previously developed and there has been a supply to the site within the previous 5 years, there maybe a credit applied to the Infrastructure charges. These credits will be calculated based on the information provided on the ‘Application for New Connection Estimate’ form.
Further information concerning these costs and charges is available from the Customer Service Centre.
Should we be unable to resolve a dispute as to whether our connection costs were incurred reasonably this can be referred to Ofwat for determination. A dispute over the terms of a condition we have imposed for the purposes of metering can be referred to arbitration or, if we cannot agree on an arbitrator, be determined by Ofwat.
New water mains
If you require a connection to an existing water main, you are required to lay or extend the supply pipe to a point close to that main. Alternatively, if your property is situated some distance away, and particularly if there are other properties involved, you may prefer us to lay an extension to the existing main along public highways nearer to your property. This would mean you have a shorter length of private supply pipe for which you remain responsible. You can ask us to do this whether you are the owner or the occupier of your property.
However, you must meet or underwrite the costs of a new water main. This means you will have to pay any difference between the income we receive from charges for water supplied from the main and our reasonable costs in providing the main. You may choose to pay the amount as a lump sum or by instalments over 12 years. We will require from you a deposit equal to the discounted aggregated deficit before beginning the work. We must pay interest on any monies we hold for longer than three months, at a rate set by Ofwat. For our part, we must provide the main within three months of you agreeing that we do so. If we break this deadline and you sustain loss or damage as a result, you may have a legal claim against us. If we cannot agree the amount you must pay or the amount of security you should give, either of us can refer the matter to Ofwat. (In some circumstances your local council may be prepared to requisition a water main on your behalf.)
If you want more information on this rather complicated subject, details are available by contacting us on 01962 858688. We will be pleased to discuss your individual requirements.
Self Lay Water Mains
We will also consider proposals from developers or their agents for the provision of new water mains and services for subsequent adoption by ourselves. This applies to design, installation, and commissioning of new water mains and services to supply new or existing developments with water. When considering the proposals we will seek to agree the most appropriate arrangements, taking into account statutory responsibilities, those elements of work that the developer wishes to undertake directly, and any other practical considerations. Upon adoption of the main you will receive an asset payment from Southern Water. This payment is calculated as the present value of the income we expect to derive from the properties connected to the main over the next 12 years. This figure is agreed before commencement of the development. Further information is available from the Network Development team, by contacting the Customer Services Centre on 0845 278 0825.
Protection of water supplies against contamination
The Water Regulations are designed to prevent potable water being contaminated. They also prevent waste, undue consumption, misuse and interference with water meters. A short explanation of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 (WSR 1999) is available from the Customer Service Centre.
• All plumbing work carried out on your premises must comply with the regulations
• All new materials or equipment installed must comply with the Regulations. The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme publishes a list of fittings that comply with these requirements and this is available on their website (www.wras.co.uk/Directory/)
• You should specify to any contractor you employ that all work must be undertaken in accordance with the regulations. Ideally you should use a contractor who is a member of the Water Industry Approved Plumber Scheme (WIAPS)
• If new or modified plumbing does not comply with our regulations, there may be a criminal offence and we can require you to put it right. In an emergency, we can disconnect your supply. If you use a plumber who is a member of WIAPS it will be the plumber who is responsible for any such criminal liability.
Remember, the Water Fittings Regulations are made to protect the quality of the water we supply and are important to ensure the water supply does not become contaminated within premises with potential harm to health.
- Disposal of wastewater
- Sewerage services
We are responsible for maintaining public sewers which take wastewater from your drains to wastewater treatment works for treatment and disposal in accordance with legal standards set and monitored by the Department for Environment, Foods and Rural Affairs. The Environment Agency enters the results of its analyses in a public register.
We have several types of sewers:
• Surface water sewers which carry rainwater from roofs and hardstandings directly into rivers and the sea
• Foul sewers which carry lavatory waste and used water from cooking, cleaning and washing, to wastewater treatment works
• Combined sewers which carry both of the above to wastewater treatment works.
• Lateral drains which carry either foul sewage of surface water from the boundary of your property to the main sewer.
On October 1st 2011, all private sewers and lateral drains transferred to the water companies (subject to appeal). For domestic customers, this means that householders are now only responsible for drains within the curtilage of their property, and which serve only their property.
If you have a problem with the public sewerage system you should contact the Customer Service Centre on 0845 278 0845 for help and advice.
Protection against flooding from sewers
Very few buildings are at risk of flooding from public sewers due to inadequate capacity. Most sewers are designed with enough capacity to protect homes from the risk of flooding. Flooding from sewers can also occur for a variety of reasons, for example following blockages, collapses or vandalism.
In the event of an internal or external flooding incident, you can contact our Technical Call Centre on 0845 278 0845, at any time.
All customers are advised to maintain insurance cover against loss or damage to their buildings and contents as a result of flooding. If effluent from one of our sewers enters your building you are entitled to a payment or credit equivalent to your wastewater charges for the charging year in which the incident occurs (£150 minimum to a maximum of £1000 for each event).
In case of external flooding, you are entitled to a payment or credit equivalent to half your wastewater charges (£75 minimum to a maximum of £500) but only if you claim the payment within the 3 months following the date on which the effluent entered your land or property.
These will not apply if flooding is caused by exceptional weather conditions, industrial action, your own actions or any defect, inadequacy or blockage in your drains or private sewers. If you suffer losses as a result of flooding from a sewer your insurance company should be able to help. We will assist in clearing up after such an event.
We are responsible for public sewers, and lateral drains (that section of a drain which serves only a single property but is outside the curtilage of the property).
Prior to October 1, 2011, we were not responsible for private sewers and lateral drains. The government introduced legislation in the 2003 Water Act, which came into effect on October 1, 2011, transferring all private sewers (pipes serving two or more properties) and lateral drains to water companies, subject to the right of appeal.
We are not responsible for clearing blockages in private drains (pipes serving your property, and within the curtilage of your property) and you must pay any contractors you call to unblock them.
We are responsible for clearing any blockages in public sewers and lateral drains for which we use specialist contractors. If in doubt you should contact us and we will provide you with an extract from our sewer records, which will show the public sewers in your area. We will arrange to have public sewers cleared promptly. If our sewer crews identify that the blockage is not our responsibility, i.e. it is in a private drain, then we will offer to clear the blockage for a charge. We will always obtain your agreement to any charges you will have to pay before we carry out the work.
If you are buying a property which is connected to a sewer, make sure that your solicitor asks whether your drain or private sewer connects to the public sewer and where. You will be responsible for the maintenance, repair or replacement of the privately owned length and you may want to check its condition.
We are responsible for the operation of public sewers and these are shown on the public sewer map which is available for inspection. However recently transferred private sewers and lateral drains may not be shown, until such time as they have been surveyed and mapped.
Our sewer records are available for inspection, free of charge, at local council offices. In addition, extracts may be obtained through the post for a small fee, by contacting our Customer Service Centre.
Most public sewers are situated in roads or public open spaces but some run through private gardens and we have a right of access to maintain, repair or replace them. We also have legal protection against anyone building over or near to our sewers.
If we need to lay or maintain pipes in your land we will observe our Code of Practice for the Exercise of Pipelaying Powers. Copies of the Code will accompany the service of any notice in relation to the exercise of our powers.
Should a dispute arise, refer to Section 15 of this Code of Practice.
The government’s intention is that, in future, all new sewers and laterals will be adopted by the local water company, and there will therefore be no new private sewers.
Section 42 of the Flood and Water Management Act is due to be implemented during 2012, and, once implemented, will require all new sewers and lateral drains to be designed and constructed to the Mandatory Build Standard (to be published prior to commencement of this legislation.
Before making a connection to the sewerage system you must seek approval from us (a ‘Section 106 agreement’) and you must also have approval of the design of the proposed works, and the agreement to adopt on completion (a ‘Section 104 agreement’).
If you wish to make a connection to the sewerage system (whether for a single house, or development site) you are encouraged to contact us as early as possible in the process.
‘Sewers for Adoption’ sets out in more detail the requirements for sewer design, and is currently being revised to take into account these legislative changes. Sewers for Adoption is published by WRc.
A ‘sewers for adoption’ package containing guidance notes and an application form is available from our Customer Service Centre.
We are not responsible for sewers which have not been adopted.
If you consider that we have imposed unreasonable conditions for adoption, you can appeal to the Regulator Ofwat.
New connections to the public sewer
The owner or occupier of a house is entitled to have a drain or private sewer connected to an appropriate public sewer. You must give us notice if you propose to do this and you should contact us on 01962 858688, or download sewer connection application documents here, which detail the procedure to be followed.
• The construction details must be in accordance with the specification accompanying the application pack
• Once we have received your notice we will tell you within 21 days if your proposals are acceptable. No connection should be undertaken within this period without our specific agreement
• We may choose to carry out the connection works ourselves. Should we wish to pursue this option we will tell you within 14 days of receipt of the completed application form
• If we are not making the connection ourselves, upon receipt of our approval you should give at least 48 hours notice of your intention to commence works
• Charges are payable as outlined below
• Any person making an illegal connection into a public sewer commits an offence and may be liable to a fine. Also, we can disconnect the drain or sewer and recover our costs of doing so
• If we find a sewer has been wrongly connected, e.g. a foul water drain connected to a surface water sewer, we will require it to be remedied immediately or disconnected
• It is also illegal to connect land drains draining unsurfaced areas to the public sewers, as this can cause flooding to other properties.
New sewer connection payments
Our costs and charges are payable for connections to the public sewer. These are:
• If we make the connection ourselves, the estimated cost payable in advance
• If we agree to you making the connection, our costs for administration and approval of your proposal, payable in advance
• An infrastructure charge, which contributes to the cost of providing sewerage systems. The maximum amount we can charge is fixed by our licence and is varied annually in line with the Retail Price Index. It is payable for each of the premises newly connected
• Infrastructure Credits: where the site was previously developed and there has been a sewer connection to the site within the previous 5 years, there maybe a credit applied to the Infrastructure charges. These credits will be calculated based on the information provided on the ‘Application for New Connection Estimate’ form.
Further information concerning these costs and charges is available from our Customer Service Centre. Should we be unable to resolve any dispute as to the acceptability of your proposals, the reasonableness of our estimated costs or any difference in our final costs, the matter can be referred to Ofwat for determination.
If you propose to lay a drain or sewer in the public highway, you should satisfy yourself that you have the right to do so and you should contact the Highway Authority.
If your house is some distance away from the nearest public sewer, you may want us to extend the sewerage system nearer to your house, particularly if you have neighbours who also want to connect their properties to main drainage. Whether you are the owner or the occupier of your house, you can require us to provide a sewer for you.
However, you must meet or underwrite the costs of a new sewer. This means you will have to pay any difference between the income we receive from charges that relate to the sewer and our reasonable costs in providing the sewer. You may choose to pay a lump sum or by instalments over 12 years. We will require from you a deposit equal to the discounted aggregated deficit before beginning the work. We must pay interest on monies held for longer than three months, at a rate set by Ofwat.
For our part, we should normally provide the sewer within six months of the sewer requisition agreement (however, this may be extended by agreement). If we cannot meet this deadline and no extension of time has been agreed and you sustain loss or damage as a result, you may have a legal claim against us. If we cannot agree the amount you must pay or the amount of security you should give, either of us can refer the matter to Ofwat. In some circumstances, your local council may be prepared to requisition on your behalf.
If you want more information on this rather complicated subject, see our guidance notes or contact us on 01962 858688. We will be pleased to discuss your individual requirements.
First time sewerage schemes
Section 101A of the Water Industry Act gives us additional responsibilities for the provision of first time sewerage where there is an adverse effect on the environment. This applies to properties which are not already connected to the sewerage system. Initially you should contact the Network Development Team or by contacting us on 01962 858688 and we will be able to give you general information regarding this procedure and arrange to have the guidance notes and application forms sent to you.
Where we provide a public sewer in response to an application under section 98 or section 101A, we may also, under the provisions of section 101B and at the request of the person requiring the sewer, provide at the same time one or more lateral drains to connect to the sewer, to be used for drainage for domestic purposes. (A lateral drain is the section of pipe connecting the house drainage from the boundary of the property to the public sewer).
The person making the request will be required to pay, following provision of the lateral drain, the costs reasonably incurred in connection with providing the lateral. We will adopt laterals provided under this section.
Odour from works
Our treatment processes meet the Environment Agency quality standards, however, we may occasionally encounter problems with odours from our sites. Our monitoring devices will help us quickly detect odour issues, but we also rely on the public to call us on 0845 278 0845 if they smell the treatment works.
- Our care for the environment
- Southern Water’s management is committed to developing and delivering this Environment Policy with the aim of continually improving our environmental performance.
The Executive Management Team is responsible for this policy.
Our Southern Water Environmental Policy Advisory Committee (SWEPAC) collectively promotes the implementation of this policy.
All employees share responsibility for environmental management and performance.
• Are committed to meeting or improving on legal and regulatory environmental requirements and applicable codes of practice
• Consider that all serious pollution incidents are avoidable and our goal is to eliminate them
• Aim to prevent pollution and contain the environmental impact of our activities
• Will strive to be regarded as a good and trusted neighbour, demonstrating environmental care in the communities in which we operate
• Recognise our responsibility to operate within a framework that supports and monitors sustainable development
• Will continue to incorporate environmental issues into business decision-making
• Will maintain and develop our Environmental Management System to the ISO 14001 standard with the aim of continually improving our performance
• Will, as part of demonstrating our environmental responsibility and active care of the environment, continue to develop indicators with measurable targets of performance and report progress against these annually
• Will continue to promote within the business the efficient use and conservation of water, energy and natural resources
• Will consider the balance between economic, environmental and social aspects of our business decisions against sustainable development principles
• Will continue to promote the purchase and use of materials in a way that minimises potential environmental effects
• Will further develop initiatives to minimise waste, preventing it, preparing it for re-use, recycling and recovering it
• Will ensure we have the skills and knowledge to improve our environmental performance
• Will provide assets that are designed to deliver sound environmental performance
• Learn from our successes and from incidents and share what we learn with others
• Work with each other, our contractors, regulators, customers and suppliers and act as one team to achieve our vision.
- Water efficiency plan and initiatives
- Efficient use of water
We have a detailed plan to promote the efficient use of water by our customers. This includes the installation of water meters for household properties as detailed in Section 7.
As demand for water grows, so does the pressure on the environment as we need to take more out of the underground sources and rivers, or build more reservoirs. Water conservation is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our work.
Our plan to promote the careful use of water by customers is in four parts:
• Southern Water's work to conserve water - leading by example
• Practical assistance.
Southern Water's work to conserve water
We cannot expect customers to be careful about the water they use, unless we set a good example. We are doing four main things:
• Managing our water resources efficiently by building strategic links across the Company area
• Checking and reducing our own use of water
• Driving down leakage levels in our supply systems. We already have one of the lowest levels of leakage of the water and sewerage companies. We intend to maintain this position and continue to reduce the amount of water lost from our distribution network
• Carrying out customer and other research.
All water companies have water resource management plans which look ahead 25 years and include projections of current and future demands for water. These plans are regularly updated to account for factors such as projections of household numbers and occupancy rates and the implications of climate change. These plans, which complement the Environment Agency's strategies, are a statutory requirement under provisions in the Water Act 2003.
All water companies in England and Wales prepare and maintain Water Resources Management and drought plans which set out how the company will continue to meet its duties to supply adequate quantities of wholesome water. Until recently these drought plans were produced voluntarily. However, it became a statutory requirement for all water companies in England and Wales to publish these plans once they have been finalised.
We have produced a booklet on the efficient use of water in the home and in the garden, which is available free on request from the Customer Service Centre. All customers will also receive a leaflet with their bill, which contains information about water efficiency.
We have a resource pack for primary schools focused on water efficiency, a pack for students at all levels easily accessible on our website. We also have a core of trained speakers who will give talks to adult groups, such as Women's Institutes, gardening clubs and Parish Councils.
Our H2OK water efficiency campaign has won a prestigious Business Award of Excellence for its clear and imaginative approach in encouraging customers not to waste water. The programme utilises a touring play for schools, a mobile exhibition vehicle which visits events across the Southern Water area at weekends, and promotion of water efficient devices.
There are a number of important initiatives aimed at practical assistance for domestic and commercial customers:
• Supply pipe leaks: we will repair these free of charge wherever practicable for domestic customers (please see Section 3.11.1 for further information) and also provide up to one-hour free leak detection service
• If you suspect you have a leak, contact the Customer Service Centre and we will respond quickly
• Advice for developers: our Network Development staff, available on 01962 858688, will provide free advice for developers to promote water efficiency in the design and fitting of new properties
• Metering of sprinklers, unattended garden watering devices, swimming pools and other recreational pools: we will provide a meter free of charge for households using sprinklers, unattended hoses and other unattended garden watering devices. Where we install a meter under this programme, the meter will serve the whole supply, including the house. See Selective Metering details on the next page.
- Water meters: Universal Metering Programme
- The Secretary of State has determined the whole of our water supply area to be an area of serious water stress. By virtue of regulations made under the Water Industry Act 1999, this provides us with legal powers to install water meters for charging purposes.
Between 2010 and 2015, we will be carrying out a metering programme, on an area-by-area basis, known as our Universal Metering Programme. Under this programme, household properties will be metered for charging purposes.
Meters fitted under our Universal Metering Programme will be fitted free of charge.
Notwithstanding our five year Universal Metering Programme, where a customer wishes to use:
• a sprinkler or other unattended garden watering device, or
• water to fill a swimming/recreational pool (whether a permanent or temporary structure) with a capacity of 20 cubic metres (4,400 gallons) or more and which is automatically replenished with water, we require a meter to be installed for charging purposes at the earliest opportunity.
If you use, or want to start using, a garden sprinkler, other unattended garden watering device, or have a qualifying swimming/recreational pool, you must complete and return an application form straight away to arrange for the installation of a meter to serve your premises. This policy does not apply to handheld hoses.
Leaflets and application forms are available from the Household Metering Service Centre, telephone 0845 270 0845.
We will pay the costs associated with the installation of the meter, provided that the meter is installed at the location chosen by us.
Should we decide to install a water meter under this policy, the continued use of sprinklers and swimming/recreational pools will be permitted from your unmetered supply until such time as the meter has been installed.
Once a meter has been installed for the purpose outlined above, there will be no opportunity to revert to an unmetered basis of charge at any time in the future.
- Water meters: Optional Metering Programme
- Metering of supply
The current legislation provides for household customers who currently pay for water services on rateable value to request their water company to install a meter free of charge, allowing them to pay for their water by reference to the volume supplied.
Customers can apply for a meter either by:
• Calling the Metering Service Centre on 0845 270 0845
Under the legislation, we will install a meter at no cost for any household customer who may request one, provided that the following conditions are met:
• It is practicable to install a meter, and
• It can be done at a reasonable cost to the Company.
Our Household Charges Scheme, approved by Ofwat, describes reasonable expense as:
• The provision of a single meter (see Note 2)
• The cost of installing that meter in the Company’s preferred location.
Unreasonable costs include:
• The cost of separating the customer’s supply pipe, where it is found to be shared with a neighbouring property
• The cost of installing additional meters if a customer is served by more than one supply or an additional shared supply (see Note 2)
• The cost of any alteration to existing plumbing to enable the installation of a meter
• The cost of installation of a meter otherwise than in the company’s preferred location.
Provided that the meter installation meets the above requirements, we will install the meter within three months of our receipt of your application.
Note 2: where appropriate we will consider the installation of a second meter for customers living in flats.
The meter location will be decided by us, and generally, this will be within the public highway, footpath or verge at the location of the external stop tap. If you choose to have a meter fitted somewhere other than our preferred location, you may be charged for the cost of fitting the meter.
If it is not possible to install a meter at your property you will be given a number of options:
• You may continue on your current basis of charge, until the Metering Program reaches your area (see section 7)
• You may make private arrangements for your pipework to be altered to enable us to install a meter. Unfortunately, due to the nature of some individual private supply arrangements, this option may not be available to every customer
• If you live in a flat within a block, and we are unable to meter your individual flat, we may be able to meter the block as a whole. For further information see the section entitled ‘Common Supplies’
• We can provide an assessed metered charge, which is based upon the number of bedrooms in your premises, or on single occupancy, and not on direct usage.
Our surveyor will visit your property and explain the options available to you in detail.
Common Supplies (this applies mainly to occupiers of flats)
In some blocks of flats or converted houses elements of shared water supplies exist. Examples are:
• Outside taps for communal garden watering
• Standpipes in garage compounds
• Communal header tanks in the attic of the building, feeding hot water systems, showers, toilets
• Communal laundry facilities.
If following our initial survey we establish that this is the position for your property, and it is not possible for you to sensibly make the necessary alterations to your private pipework, we will be unable to install a meter to record the entire volume of water supplied to you.
However, it may be possible to meter the entire block of flats that you live in, provided that:
• We receive written acceptance from each bill-paying customer
• One person, or entity, accepts responsibility for payment of the metered charge, and
• None of the occupiers are currently receiving water services accounts calculated on a metered basis by reference to recorded consumption.
Reverting to unmetered
In view of our Universal Metering Programme (see section 7 above), once you have chosen to switch to metered charges you may not revert to unmetered charges.
Leaflets and application forms are available from the Household Metering Service Centre, telephone 0845 270 0845.
- Water meters
- If you have a water meter, there are special points to remember.
Leakage and waste
If you have a meter, you will be paying for water leaking from pipes and fittings for which you are responsible. You should ensure they are kept in good order and repair. Our Code of Practice on Leakage provides you with safeguards in these circumstances and is available free of charge. It is in your interest to make frequent check readings of the meter in order to identify any excessive use and to enable early action to be taken. Advice on leak detection is available from the Customer Service Centre.
Testing the meter
All meters are tested before they are installed. If you question the accuracy of the meter we will carry out an initial accuracy check free of charge. However, a high-recorded consumption is normally more likely to indicate leakage or waste than a faulty meter.
If you ask for another test and the meter is found to be within the prescribed limits then a charge of £70 (plus VAT) will be made. There will be no charge if the meter is found to exceed the prescribed limits.
Works affecting the meter
The meter remains our property. You must contact the Customer Service Centre to seek permission to do anything which may affect its operation or the accuracy of its measurement.
Interfering with the meter
If you interfere with the meter, or carry out work so as to prevent it registering accurately, you will be committing an offence and be liable to a fine and paying for putting it right. The regulations enable us to prosecute through the Magistrates Court where a fine up to a maximum of £1,000 may be imposed.
Change of occupation or ownership
You must give us at least two working days advance notice, excluding weekends and bank holidays, so that we can obtain a closing reading. If you don’t, you will be liable to charges.
For further information, including requests for meter testing, you should contact the Customer Service Centre 0845 272 0845 who will be pleased to advise you.
- Customers' accounts
The water industry and the Government work to a statutory formula for future price rises which enables investment programmes to be adequately funded. This formula comprises the Retail Price Index + ‘K’, (‘K’ being the amount above or below inflation that companies are allowed to change charges by each year). The proposed increases in ‘K’ for the period 2010 to 2015 were reviewed and approved by Ofwat at the end of 2009.
Southern Water's average charges (excluding RPI) over the five-year period 2010-15 have been increased by 1.2%
Southern Water is managing a substantial capital investment programme for the period 2010-15 across Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, estimated to be some £1,800 million. The investment programme will deliver:
• New schemes to meet higher quality standards required by the Environment Agency and Drinking Water Inspectorate, in line with European law
• Maintenance work and improvements to existing water mains, sewers, treatment work and pumping stations, along with upgrading service levels
• Improvements to help protect against flooding from sewers as well as further projects to control odours from sewage treatment works
• Additional water and sewerage infrastructure to further safeguard water supplies and to start addressing Government plans for new housing in the South.
Details of our charges and charging policies are found in our Charges Scheme which is available free from the Customer Service Centre or online. We have standard tariffs for the services we provide in respect of unmetered and metered water supplies and wastewater collection and disposal.
Value Added Tax is payable only on certain charges and this is detailed on bills where appropriate.
As a domestic customer, your water services charges are calculated either on an unmetered basis by reference to either your property’s rateable value or an assessed rate or on a metered basis by reference to the volume of water supplied as recorded by a water meter.
Normally, the occupier of the premises receiving our services is liable to pay our charges; this is so even if the occupier is a tenant and the tenancy agreement says that the landlord will pay our charges. The landlord will be liable if he agrees this with us directly or pays the bills in his name.
It is in your interests to ensure that we are notified of changes in occupier. This is particularly so if you have a water meter, as the Water Industry Act 1991 states that you are required to give us at least two working days advance notice, excluding weekends and bank holidays, before you leave your premises so that we can obtain a closing reading. If you don’t, and are unable to provide a final meter reading, we will estimate the final bill.
On receipt of your final account, we will refund any outstanding credit balance within 10 working days, at your request, or transfer it to your new property, where it is in Southern Water’s area.
How are charges calculated
Some households receive services which are unmetered. Services are supplied on a metered basis if:
• A meter has been installed as part of our Universal Metering Program
• You have chosen to have a meter installed
• A meter is installed already
• You have a new connection to our water main
• You wish to use a sprinkler or unattended watering device
• You have a swimming pool/recreational pool.
Customers might save money by switching to a metered supply. To apply:
• Call the Metering Service Centre on 0845 270 0845
• Or visit our website.
Surface water rebate
The standing charges for our wastewater service are shown on the bills. They are split between their constituent elements of waste (foul) water, surface water and highway drainage.
For the majority of our customers the rain that falls onto roofs, paths and driveways drains into the public sewer. The cost of removing this water is now shown as a separate item on the bill. However, there are some properties where surface water does not drain into a public sewer, but drains into soakaways or a private surface water drain or sewer which does not enter the public sewerage system. If this is the case, a reduction in charges can be claimed.
If you think you may be eligible for a rebate you can apply online or telephone 0845 279 0845 to apply (see note 3).
The highway drainage element is payable by all customers who benefit from a connection to the public sewerage system to cover the cost of highway water run off.
We make separate charges for water supply services and for wastewater services, if we provide them. In both cases charges will comprise:
• A standing charge, this is set to recover the costs of servicing each account, i.e. the billing and associated costs, together with an element which seeks to recognise the demand placed on the water supply and wastewater infrastructure by each customer, and
• A charge calculated on the rateable value of the premises served as at March 31, 1990. Charges are subject to a minimum charge.
If your property does not have a rateable value, we can provide an assessed metered charge based upon the number of bedrooms in your premises, or on single occupancy, and not direct usage.
If your property is connected to a public sewer for the drainage of surface water only, you will also have to pay a fixed charge for the surface water drainage.
Where water is used for any other purpose specified by us (e.g. garages, pools or troughs), we will fix a charge for that purpose.
Paying unmetered accounts
Our charges are calculated for the year from April 1 and are payable on that date. However, payment can be made (see note 4):
• By two instalments, on April 1 and October 1, which may be paid by Direct Debit, or
• By prior arrangement in twelve monthly instalments through the year. This option is available to all domestic customers on request. Payment can be made automatically by Direct Debit, or by using a plastic payment card which we will provide.
Note 3: Rebates are effective from the beginning of the charging year in which the claim is made
Note 4: All methods of payments are free of charge unless specified
If you have difficulty in making payment, we urge you to contact us as soon as possible at the Customer Service Centre, so that we can make instalment arrangements to suit your needs - this can include weekly or fortnightly payments.
If any instalment is not paid by the date due, we can ask for the charges to be paid in full. We will only withdraw instalment arrangements as a last resort and therefore urge you to contact us immediately.
We make separate charges for water supply services and for wastewater services, if we provide them. In both cases our charges will comprise:
• A standing charge determined by the size of the water meter, this is set to recover the costs of servicing each account, i.e. the billing and associated costs, together with an element which seeks to recognise the demand placed on the water supply and wastewater infrastructure by each customer; and
• A charge based on the volume of water supplied as recorded by the Meter.
Your charges for water supply services will be calculated on the amount of water supplied, as recorded on the meter. If the meter is not operating properly or we are unable to read it for some reason, we will make a reasonable estimate of the amount supplied and calculate your charges on this. If you disagree with the estimate, we will have regard to the information you can provide about water usage.
Your charges for wastewater services will be assessed on the amount of clean water supplied less a fixed allowance of 7.5% in respect of water not discharged to the sewer (e.g. outside water use).
Paying metered accounts
We will aim to read your meter every six months and issue a bill based on this reading. Where we can not take a reading, the bill will be based on an estimation of consumption, or you may provide a customer reading which will be used to generate a bill.
You will receive your bill shortly afterwards and it is then due for payment.
You can make monthly budget plan payments by Direct Debit or by using a plastic payment card which we will provide. You can also pay weekly or fortnightly using the payment card, if you have difficulty in budgeting for monthly payments.
The ways of paying our accounts are described on the reverse of our bills and are as follows (see note 5):
• By Direct Debit - this is the simplest and most convenient method of paying your account. We can take your details over the phone or send you a form to complete or you can apply online
• By debit or credit card - we are able to accept payment by credit or debit card over the telephone on 0845 272 0845. We also provide this facility, 24 hours everyday, on 0845 270 1508
• Budget plan - arrangements can be made for monthly, six-monthly or annual payments by Direct Debit. We always tell you the amount we recommend before payments commence. Alternatively, a payment card can be used by domestic customers at the Post Office and any shop displaying a PayPoint sign. Contact us on 0845 272 0845 if you prefer this way of paying
• At a bank - fill in the bank giro slip on the bill and take it with the complete account and your payment to a bank. This service is free of charge if you pay by cheque at any branch of your own bank, or by cash or cheque at any branch of the National Westminster Bank
• By post - complete and tear off the payment slip and send it with your cheque to:
Southern Water, PO Box 41, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3NZ
• At any post office - fill in the payment slip and take the complete account, with your payment to any Post Office where you can pay free of charge
• PayPoint - for customers who prefer to pay at a local facility, there are PayPoint collection terminals, located in newsagents, convenience stores, supermarkets, garages and off-licences. You will need to take your payment card or your bill to the local PayPoint outlet with the cash to make a payment. You will receive a receipt for the payment, which must be retained as proof of payment
• BillPay – we offer a free online payment facility in conjunction with Santander. This secure service can be used with both credit and debit cards and is available 24 hours a day for your convenience.
Note 5: All methods of payments are free of charge unless specified
If you need any help with the Santander BillPay service, please call the Santander help desk on 0151 966 2105, 8.30am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday
• PC or telephone banking – please quote the thirteen digits of your payment reference, without any spaces. Our bank sort code is 57 70 63 and if requested our bank account number is 00000000.
How to get help
Water services have to be paid for, however we understand that some customers find it difficult to set aside money to pay their water services charges. We will always try to be flexible in our approach and are committed to doing everything possible to reach an agreement with which you will be happy. Please contact us as soon as possible at the Customer Service Centre:
PO Box 41
Telephone: 0845 272 0845 (between 08:00 and 20:00 Monday to Friday and Saturday 08:00 to 17:00). Telephone calls to the Customer Service Centre using this number will be charged at the local rate.
If you don’t already have a meter installed, and you live in a property with a high rateable value, we can discuss whether changing to a metered supply could reduce your future bills. You can contact the Household Metering Centre on: 0845 270 0845 for further information and they will send you a detailed explanatory leaflet.
A ‘Payment of water services charges’ Code of Practice leaflet is also available which tells you how we can help if you are experiencing difficulties. It also explains what steps we can take to collect our charges if you don’t pay or we are unable to agree a satisfactory payment arrangement with you. For copies of the leaflet contact the Customer Service Centre on 0845 272 0845.
- Elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers
- Customers with Individual Needs
As a Southern Water customer, you are entitled to expect high standards of service from us. We always try to give all our customers the best of care. However, we know that customers who are elderly or disabled or who have certain medical conditions may have extra needs and concerns.
In order that we can give the best possible service, we keep a confidential register of customers who have individual needs. The register makes sure our staff know about any special circumstances or needs that you may have and we can provide the following services free of charge:
• Information in large print or Braille
• Talking bills
• Audio Tapes/CDs: letters, leaflets or bills can be converted into this format
• Sending accounts to friends and carers
• Frequent water meter reading service
• Special telephone service for people who use 'text' phones or 'typetalk'
• A priority service for people who use a kidney dialysis machine at home and those with disabilities
• Advice on water efficiency and special water appliances in your home
• Password scheme.
A leaflet is available providing more details of these services. To join our ‘Special Needs Register’ or request a leaflet, please contact us in the following ways:
• By phone: Freephone 0800 027 0800 - 8am to 8pm Monday-Friday, 8am to 5pm Saturday
• By Minicom text telephone - 0845 275 0845 (service for the deaf and hard of hearing), 8am to 8pm Monday-Friday, 8am to 5pm Saturday
• By fax - 01903 535060
• By visiting our website
• By writing to us at the following address
PO Box 41
Help with metered water bills: Watersure Tariff
In accordance with the current legislation, we offer assistance to vulnerable groups to help them avoid hardship with their metered water bills. The regulations ensure that customers who meet specific qualifying criteria receive a bill capped at the average for the Company rather than the actual metered bill they would face.
To be eligible for protection, a person residing at the premises served has to be in receipt of one of the following benefits or tax credits:
• Income Support
• Pension Credit
• Income Based Jobseeker's Allowance
• Income Related Employment and Support Allowance
• Council Tax Benefit
• Housing Benefit
• Child Tax credit - must be above the basic family element
• Working Families Tax Credit.
Secondly, either you, your child or another member of your household must suffer from a medical condition which requires significant additional use of water. Or you must have responsibility for three or more children under 19, in full time education and for whom you receive child benefit.
To receive assistance, it is necessary for customers to complete an application form. If you meet the qualifying criteria and would like to apply for assistance, please ring our Debt Advice Centre to request an application form: 0800 027 0363.
- As a customer of Southern Water, you deserve a high standard of service from us. Most of the time we achieve this but sometimes we get things wrong. When we do, we need to know so that we can put things right. The procedure we follow for dealing with complaints has been approved by the Regulator Ofwat.
If your complaint is regarding a billing issue, we will ensure that no recovery action is taken while we investigate. There may also be occasions, particularly on operational complaints, where we may need further information to support what you say. Where possible, we will try to resolve you complaint by contacting you by telephone to discuss the matter. We will always offer to follow this up in writing and to send you a complaints procedure leaflet in the post. Where we cannot reach you by telephone, we will write to you within 10 working days.
Information on how to contact us is sent out with our bills, which give the address, email and telephone number of our Customer Service Centre.
We have a leaflet entitled ‘Our complaints procedure’ which describes fully how you can make a complaint.
We have a Special Needs Register which enables us to extend our customer care initiatives to complaints procedures. These are fully described in the section ‘Helping elderly people, those with disabilities and vulnerable customers’.
Whenever we are advised by customers of their special requirements, we update our register to assist us in providing a more comprehensive response.
Complaints and time-scales
Our procedures ensure your complaint is directed to our Customer Relations Team. However, we recognise that customers may complain to any of our staff. Accordingly, all Southern Water's staff are required to forward any complaint they receive directly to the Customer Relations Team.
All complaints, whether received in writing, by email, telephone or personal contact are logged at time of receipt and provided with an individual monitoring control record.
Our system ensures that we record:
- Your name and address
- The nature of your complaint
- The date your complaint was sent to us
- The date we received it
- The latest date by which we may respond
- The person who received the complaint
- The person who is handling the complaint
- The type of response required
- The mechanism for ensuring the complaint is recorded as completed
Written complaints are monitored to ensure they are handled within the time-scales required under the Guaranteed Standards Scheme or sooner. These are fully described on Section 13.
What we will do to put things right
We aim to provide high quality, efficient and helpful services. However, we may make a mistake. If we do, we will explain to you what went wrong, put things right and apologise. We will review each case individually and provide appropriate compensation in a professional and timely manner.
If you have a complaint
If you have a complaint about your water bill or one of our services, you can call us on 0330 303 0277. If you'd prefer to write to us, please address your letter to the Customer Relations Manager, at the following address:
PO Box 41
Alternatively, you can contact us via email by completing one of our online forms. We will respond to all written complaints within 10 working days.
A Genuine “Fresh Look”
If you remain dissatisfied with our response, your case can be reviewed by a member of the Directors Review Team.
While we aim to resolve your complaint first time, in the event that you are still unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion you can ask for an independent review by the Customer Services and Revenue Director.
Ultimately, and where we are unable to resolve the issue, you can contact the Consumer Council for Water (CCW)
If a complaint has not been satisfactorily resolved after going through the above stages, customers can refer it to the independent Consumer Council for Water (London and South East) by writing to:
Consumer Council for Water
London & South East
Victoria Square House,
Tel: 020 79318502
Fax: 0121 345 1010
Local rate: 08457 581 658
Email: using the form on www.ccwater.org.uk
They will investigate your complaint and the way we have dealt with it.
Details of disputes, which can be referred to arbitration, are given in Section 14.
Staff training and monitoring
Staff who are in regular contact with our customers receive in house training on customer care. A dedicated and permanent training unit has been established within our Customer Service Centre.
Our staff are trained to be courteous, to give their names at the start of any conversation and to listen to customers’ needs. All letters to customers give the name of the person who has handled the complaint and a response contact.
Appraisal and retraining are continuous activities within the Customer Service Centre.
Our telephone staff are monitored daily to ensure that their response to customers is correct and within the strict guidelines we set down.
Customer Service Centre staff are empowered to resolve complaints directly and we honour the commitments which they make on our behalf.
Audit of responses
We audit our own responses through the reports we make to our Directors.
The returns we submit to Ofwat in June of each year are independently assessed. This assessment certifies both the performance we have achieved and the level of confidence of the data we have submitted.
Complaints’ data are an integral part of our internal business plans and a performance monitor for the business.
- Guaranteed standards
- Our guarantee to customers
Our aim at Southern Water is to provide a high level of service at all times. However, with more than 1.5 million customer contacts a year, three thousand works and pumping stations, and a vast network of water mains and sewers, there will inevitably be occasional problems.
This document emphasises our commitment to our domestic customers and details the minimum standards of service you can expect in our main areas of business together with the action we will take and, where appropriate any compensation we will pay you, if we don’t deliver on our promises.
Southern Water will provide one hour’s free leakage detection work on customers supply pipes to help locate a leak.
Although Southern Water is not responsible for repairing a customer’s supply pipe; we will repair three underground leaks up to the outside wall of your house free of charge during your occupancy of the property. We aim to complete all repairs within 10 working days of receiving your signed acceptance to carry out the repair.
For elderly customers and those with individual needs who are having difficulty reading their meter and would like it relocated, we will carry out a free survey. If it is possible to move the meter we will move it free of charge.
For customers who are unable to read their meter themselves or want to monitor their consumption we can provide a service whereby we read their meter four times a year.
Planned: If we have to carry out planned work which involves interrupting your water supply for more than 4 hours, we will let you know at least 48 hours before the interruption will happen and when we expect the supply to be restored. We will notify you when your water supply will be restored and restore it in the time stated.
If we fail to correctly notify you of the interruption or if the supply is not restored in the stated time, we will either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25.
Unplanned: Clearly we cannot notify you before an unplanned interruption such as a burst, but we aim to restore your supply within 12 hours or, in the case of a large mains burst, within 48 hours. If the interruption extends beyond that we will automatically compensate you for this and each additional period of 24 hours during which the interruption continues.
If we believe the interruption period is going to be significant, we will, where possible, arrange an alternative supply.
If we fail to restore the supply within 12 hours (or 48 hours in the case of a large mains burst), we will either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25. Another payment of £10 will be made for each additional period of 24 hours during which the interruption continues.
It can be difficult to identify all properties affected by an interruption. In case you have been affected by an interruption but Southern Water has not contacted you, to obtain any compensation due you must make a claim (either verbally or in writing) within three months following the date on which the supply was interrupted or cut-off (see section 2 for Southern Water contact details).
If we were aware you had been affected by an interruption, you may be entitled to a further penalty payment of £20 if we fail to advise you of the compensation due to you within 20 working days of the date of the interruption.
If you experience three or more unplanned interruptions lasting more than 15 hours in total within a 12-month period, you can claim £25.
Low water pressure
If, due to unplanned events, you experience significant low pressure for more than one hour on two separate occasions within a 28-day period, we will either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25. As it can be difficult to identify all properties affected by low water pressure, you should make a claim to ensure you receive this compensation. All claims must be made in writing within three months of the second occasion.
We act immediately if we discover quality problems in your water supply. If you complain about our water making you ill we will contact you within two hours of receiving the complaint, to arrange for the water at your tap to be tested. However, if your complaint relates to another water quality matter, we will contact you within one working day to arrange a visit.
After sampling the water at your premises we will telephone you with the results within 48 hours for basic water quality tests if you have given us a contact number. For those occasions where, due to regulatory requirements, we need to do more complex analysis we will confirm our findings in writing within 10 days.
If we fail to meet these time-scales we will either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25.
Very occasionally you may find that your water supply is a brownish colour. This discoloration is often caused by work being carried out on ageing iron mains and, although unsightly, poses no health risk.
If laundry is stained because of water discoloration due to our mains we will compensate you for the cost of the affected items. If other damage is caused we will pay you appropriate compensation.
Replacement of lead pipes
We have a policy of replacing lead company pipes and encourage our customers to replace any lead water pipes that they own (see note 1, section 3.12). Customers are responsible for the pipe that runs between the boundary of the street and their property - this is referred to as the supply pipe. Southern Water is responsible for that part of the pipe between the water main and the boundary of the street in which the water main is laid - this is referred to as the communication pipe. If you are replacing your lead supply pipe, we will replace our communication pipe at the same time free of charge provided you give us 15 working days notice. If we fail to do so we will either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25.
Sewer flooding - general
Normally we will respond to a complaint of sewer flooding within two hours of the first report of flooding entering a property (internal) and within 4 hours if flooding is outside a property (externally). We will also provide a full clean up service where possible within 12 hours (internal flooding) or within 24 hours (external flooding).
Sewer flooding – internal & external
If your premises are internally flooded due to a failure of our drainage system, we will make a payment to you of an amount equivalent to your annual sewerage charges - £150 minimum, up to a maximum of £1,000 for each incident.
We will write to you within 20 working days of the incident enclosing details of your payment and informing you of any action we plan to take and any investigations we intend to carry out.
If we fail to make a payment either by sending you a cheque or by crediting your account within 20 working days of the incident, you will be entitled to an additional payment of £20.
If your property is flooded externally due to a failure of our drainage system, you may claim an amount equivalent to half your annual sewerage charges - £75 minimum, up to a maximum of £500.
You must make a claim within three months of the incident and provide information to prove you were materially affected by the flooding incident. Claim forms are available on request from the Call Centre.
We will write to you within 20 working days of receiving your substantiated claim enclosing details of your payment.
If we fail to either send you a cheque or credit your account within 20 working days of receiving your claim, you will be entitled to an additional payment of £20.
If you experience internal and external flooding in one incident, the payment you are entitled to will be calculated based on internal flooding.
Payments will not apply if:
• The flooding happened because of exceptional weather conditions or industrial action
• The flooding was caused by customer’s action or any defect, blockage or inadequacy in the customer’s drain or sewers
• You notified us more than three months after your property was flooded.
We aim to respond to written account queries within five working days. If we fail to respond to a written query regarding the correctness of our charges within 10 working days of receiving your query, we either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25.
If we fail to send you a refund cheque or credit your account within 10 working days of our reply, you will be entitled to a further penalty payment of £10.
We will respond to a request to change your payment arrangements within five working days of receiving your request. If we cannot agree to the request and fail to meet this standard we will either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25.
If we fail to send you a refund cheque or credit your account within 10 working days of our reply, you will be entitled to a further penalty payment of £10.
Incorrectly issued County Court claims
If we incorrectly issue a County Court claim against you in respect of a debt for which you are not liable, and for which you have previously informed us that you are not liable, we will correct the situation, withdraw the fees and costs and either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25.
In some circumstances, we refer customers’ debts to debt collection agencies. The agencies we use are registered with the Office of Fair Trading and are members of the Credit Services Association and subject to its Code of Practice. Southern Water also audits these companies’ policies and procedures on an annual basis. In the unlikely event that a debt is pursued this way in error or the debt collection agent acts improperly we will either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25.
Registration of a Default against the Customer credit file
In some circumstances Southern Water registers a default against customers' credit files held by Credit Reference Agencies. In the unlikely event that a debt is pursued this way in error, Southern Water will correct the situation and send you a £25 payment. This only applies to domestic customers, as default notices are not applicable to commercial customers.
We aim to make a full response to a written complaint within five working days of receiving your letter. If we fail to provide a response within 10 working days we will either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25.
If we fail to send you a refund cheque or credit your account within 10 working days of our reply, you will be entitled to a further penalty payment of £10.
Access to property
Where Southern Water is undertaking works and we require the customer to provide access to their property we will agree with customers the timing and any specific access requirements in advance of the work commencing. Failure to consult will result in a £25 payment in respect of each affected property.
When we need to visit you at your premises and it is necessary for you to be present, we will advise you whether we will visit either before or after 1pm. You can then request the visit to occur in a two-hour period. If we do not keep the appointment as made, we will either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25.
Southern Water aims to meet all its appointment times. If we cannot, we will let you know at least 24 hours in advance. If we fail to make the appointment or cancel the appointment with less than 24 hours notice, we will either send you a £25 payment or credit your account with £25.
Payments will not apply if the appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours notice because of circumstances beyond our control, for example extreme weather conditions, strikes or the actions of a third party.
If we fail to either send you a refund cheque or credit your account within 10 working days of the missed appointment date, you will be entitled to an additional compensation of £10.
Southern Water additional standards
In addition to the Guaranteed Standards Scheme, we also make the following provisions for the imposition of water restrictions.
• We will do our utmost to safeguard your water supply and endeavour to avoid having to impose water restrictions or the use of standpipes in times of drought
• Unfortunately, in exceptional circumstances it may be impossible to avoid such restrictions
• If your supply of water for essential domestic purposes is interrupted, or cut-off as a result of an emergency restriction authorised by a drought order (other than through exceptional drought circumstances, which could not have been avoided), we will pay you £10 per day, subject to a maximum of the company’s average water bill for the previous year
• Ofwat will make the final decision on any dispute on this issue.
The circumstances in which water companies may exercise their powers in the Water Industry Act 1991 to impose temporary hosepipe restrictions are not expressly linked to drought. Before imposing a temporary hosepipe ban, a water company has to be satisfied that a serious deficiency of water available for distribution exists or is threatened. With drought orders and drought permits there is the additional statutory criterion that the actual or threatened deficiency is attributable to an exceptional shortage of rain.
Hosepipe and sprinkler bans may be imposed by water companies under their own powers in Section 76 of the Water Industry Act 1991 and do not require the approval of the Secretary of State/National Assembly for Wales or the Environment Agency. Before imposing a ban the relevant water company has to be satisfied that a serious deficiency of water available for distribution exists or is threatened.
The current hosepipe ban legislation is set out in the Water Industry Act 1991. The scope of the powers which water companies may exercise under this section is limited to prohibiting or restricting the use of hosepipes or similar apparatus for watering private gardens or washing private motor cars. A hosepipe ban applies only to water taken from the mains supply.
In a worsening drought, simple supply and demand management measures are not always sufficient and water companies may have to take additional steps by applying to the Environment Agency for a drought permit or to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs/National Assembly for Wales for a drought order. In July 2005 Defra, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Environment Agency updated a booklet providing information about the process for obtaining drought orders and drought permits.
Drought orders and permits provide a temporary mechanism for managing water resources limited by exceptional shortage of rain. They are a water resources management tool and exist to help avoid risk to public water supplies while providing the best possible protection for the environment.
If we are unable to agree your entitlement to a payment or credit you can refer the matter to:
The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat)
Centre City Tower
7 Hill Street
who can call for all relevant information and then determine the dispute.
Your legal rights
A claim of payment or credit under this scheme does not affect any other legal right to compensation you may have and does not form an admission on our part as to liability in the event of any legal or other proceedings taking place.
- Under the Water Industry Act 1991, some disputes between customers and Southern Water may be decided by an arbitrator, to be agreed between the two parties.
The costs of the arbitration may be payable by whichever party is unsuccessful in the dispute.
Those disputes which can be referred to arbitration are:
• WATER METERS
Any dispute in respect of the exercise of our powers to carry out the installation of a water meter, compensation or the apportionment of expenses
• COMPENSATION ARISING FROM STREETWORKS
Any dispute about possible compensation due, following work we have carried out in your street.
- Disputes determined by Ofwat
- Under the Water Industry Act 1991, some disputes between customers and Southern Water can be referred by either of us to Ofwat for determination.
Those disputes which can be referred to Ofwat are:
NEW CONNECTIONS TO WATER MAINS AND ASSOCIATED WORKS
• Whether any security for the expenses we expect to incur was reasonably required
• Whether our expenses were incurred reasonably
• Whether conditions relating to separate supplies and metering are reasonable.
THE REQUIREMENT FOR YOUR PROPERTY TO HAVE A SEPARATE SUPPLY PIPE
• Whether our requirement for your property to have a single supply service pipe is reasonable.
THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF METERING
• Any dispute about any terms and conditions we apply as a condition of connecting your supply to the mains to allow us to install a water meter and we cannot agree on the appointment of an arbitrator
• Any dispute about whether it is practicable to fix charges by reference to volume of water supplied, or where the company would incur unreasonable expense.
REQUIREMENT TO MAINTAIN PRESSURE AND SUPPLY
• Any dispute about our requirement as to the effectiveness of the capacity of your water tank before we will connect your water supply.
ADOPTION OF SEWERS OR SEWAGE DISPOSAL WORKS
• An appeal against our proposal or refusal to adopt a sewer or works or about the conditions imposed.
CONNECTING PRIVATE SEWERS AND DRAINS TO PUBLIC SEWERS
• Any question as to the reasonableness of our refusal to allow the connection or our requirement to inspect your drain or sewer before allowing connection; or about the costs and security we require you to pay
• Whether an estimate of the cost of our works or the requirement of security is reasonable.
POWER TO ALTER A PRIVATE DRAINAGE SYSTEM
• Where we intend to close your private drainage system, an appeal about the position or sufficiency of the replacement drain or sewer.
POWER TO CLOSE OR RESTRICT THE USE OF A PUBLIC SEWER
• Any dispute about the effectiveness of an alternative sewer provided to replace an existing one which is due to be closed.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR THE ADOPTION OF WATER MAINS – SELF LAY
• Before work commences: Any dispute about the terms and conditions for agreement for the adoption of mains laid by a contractor
• On completion of works: Any dispute on financial arrangements e.g. build rate / income assessment etc.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR REQUISITIONED WATER MAINS/SEWERS/LATERAL DRAINS
• Any dispute about the financial terms for the provision of mains/sewers or lateral drains; the timescale for provision or route proposed.
REQUEST TO MOVE COMPANY PIPEWORK
• Dispute about the reasonableness of any refusal to move company pipework in response to a request to do so by you as the affected landowner.
NEW WATER MAINS
• If you requisition a new water main, any dispute in respect of the amount we require you to pay, the undertakings or securities we require you to give, where we will lay the main for your connection or the period within which we will lay the main.
NEW PUBLIC SEWERS
• If you requisition a new public sewer, any dispute in respect of the amount we require you to pay, the undertakings or securities we require you to give, where we will lay the sewer for your connection or the period within which we will lay the sewer.
EXERCISE OF WORKS ON PRIVATE LAND
• Any dispute about the manner in which we have undertaken work on private land.
GUARANTEED STANDARDS OF SERVICE SCHEME
• Any dispute about a failure to meet one of our Guaranteed Standards of Service and any dispute whether or not you are entitled to a compensation payment under the Guaranteed Standards of Service scheme.
Ofwat can be contacted at:
The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat)
Centre City Tower
7 Hill Street
- The contents of this code do not form part of a contract and do not create a contract between Southern Water Services Limited and any of its customers.
- The contents of this code are not intended to be in conflict with any relevant regulations made under the Water Industry Act 1991 or other legislation. In the event of any apparent conflict, the provisions of the regulations or legislation will prevail. You will not be able to claim payment or credit under both this code and any relevant regulations to the extent that the code and the regulations apply to similar matters
- The Water Industry Act also gives you the right, in certain circumstances, to take legal proceedings against us for any loss or damage caused to you by our failing to comply with certain of our duties under the Act