Problems in private drains

Information and choices for customers on how to deal with a blockage in your drain.


If you have a blocked drain and/or wastewater flooding, what action to take will depend on whether it is caused by a problem with the public sewers or a problem on your private household system.

If you suspect you have a blocked drain then, if possible, check to see if the nearest manhole is blocked or contact your neighbour to see if they have the same problem.

If they do, or the manhole is blocked, call us immediately on 0330 303 0368 (calls charged at local rate). The age of your property would be useful information for us.

If it is a problem with the private drains or sewers serving your property, you will need to contact a private drainage contractor. If in doubt, call us and our specialist advisors will be able to give you advice on what to do.

In all cases:

  • Wash and treat footwear with a mild disinfectant
  • Keep children and pets out of the contaminated area
  • Wear rubber gloves when clearing up and look out for sharp objects
  • Always wash your hands
  • In the unlikely event of feeling unwell, contact your GP
  • Call an electrician to check flooded circuits or equipment


First response
  • When we receive a call about a problem, we will try our best to establish if it is in a public or private pipe by asking you some specific questions.
  • If, together, we still can’t find the root cause of the problem, we will visit your property to investigate.
  • If the blockage is found to be on the private drain, we offer to try and clear it if we can do so quickly – within 30 mins of arriving.
  • We will ask you to sign a consent form to allow us to work on your private drain before we start any work.
  • If this is the first time we have been called to your property, we will not charge you. If, however, this is a repeat visit and the blockage is found in the same place we may have to charge you. We’ll explain all the options before we make the visit.

If the flooding is caused by a problem on our sewerage network, we will:

  • carry out an initial external clean-up where possible within 12 hours for internal flooding and 24 hours for external flooding. This includes removing excess liquid, cleaning debris, applying household disinfectant – this will remove all traces of bacteria within 24 to 48 hours
  • clear gardens of water and debris (bacteria are best killed by natural exposure to the sunlight’s ultra violet radiation)
  • clean and disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and drives.


More work required
  • If the problem is more complex and will take longer to resolve, you have the right to choose a contractor to carry out the work.
  • We recommend obtaining several quotations before work starts.
  • You will find a selection of drainage companies by checking local business directories, referring to websites or checking with trade associations.
  • Here are links to some of the best-known online business directories are available: 

    Check A Trade
    - Yellow Pages
    - Thomson Local
    - BT Directory
    - Free Index
    - Local Traders
  • We will do what we can to help, but we cannot advise about the detailed extent of the work, nor provide any recommendation or endorsement for services to fix it.
  • You may have home insurance that covers you for work to your drains. If you do please talk to your insurance company and also mention it to the drainage contractor you are talking to, as they are often able to carry out work for you and make the claim on your behalf.


Private contractors' work
  • If a private contractor attends and highlights there is an issue on a shared section of the sewer, do not pay for the contractor to undertake work, please contact Southern Water and we will carry out the necessary work
  • Private contractors are not authorised to work on public sewers, under no circumstances should a contractor carry out work on the sections shown in blue in the diagram. Southern Water will always attend to issues on the shared section and carry out the necessary work to maintain the sewer network.


Protect your home


  • Pour excess fat into a container and dispose of it in the bin - not down the sink
  • More than 55% of all sewer flooding is caused by the build up of fat, oil and grease in pipes
  • Motor oil, paint and other waste must never be poured into drains as many flow into rivers and coastal waters


  • Only flush the three Ps - pee, poo and paper
  • Items such as wipes, sanitary products, nappies and cotton pads or buds should go in the bin as they can cause blockages

Check your connections

  • Appliances such as washing machines - and even toilets - can be connected to the wrong pipes, meaning untreated water drains directly into rivers and coastal waters. Visit for advice on checking your connections

Dealing with problems in private drains


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