Guide to sewer flooding

This guide is to support customers who have experienced a sewer flood. This guide provides information about; your drain ownership and what support customers can expect from Severn Trent.

Types of flooding

High levels of rainfall can result in rivers ‘bursting their bank’ i.e. the river spilling
out and flooding surrounding land.

Flooding is a natural phenomenon, so it is usual for rivers to flood. If the river is classed as a ‘main river’, the management of flood risk will be the responsibility of the Environment Agency (EA).

The Environment Agency carries out maintenance, improvement or construction work on main rivers to manage the flood risk. The Environment Agency provide flood warning services for main river flooding. 

You can sign up to Environment Agency flood warning service if your property is a risk.

For help and guidance with river flooding contact the Environment Agency. You can call their Floodline on 0345 988 1188.

Other rivers are called ‘ordinary watercourses’. Lead Local Flood Authorities, District and Borough Councils are responsible for the management of flood risk from ‘ordinary watercourses’.

Regardless of whether it is a main river or ordinary watercourse, The river is responsibility of the landowner

On the government website, you can also check if a watercourse is a main river.

Surface water flooding can happen when intense or prolonged rainfall occurs. It is
rainwater on the surface that has not entered a watercourse or drainage system. It can be fast flowing or ponding on the surface.

You should contact your Lead Local Flood Authority (Unitary Authority or the County Council) about surface water flooding.

Very high levels of rain can also lead to too much water being stored underground, causing the water to rise up above the surface. This may remain for weeks after the rain has stopped.

Lead local flood authorities (the unitary or county council) are responsible for managing the risk of flooding from groundwater.

If the flooding is coming from a highway drain or a gully in the road (the ones with holes you can drop keys down), you’ll need to contact Highways England for busier and larger routes, such as motorways and dual carriageways.

For flooding on smaller roads, contact your local County Council.

If you can see sewer debris like toilet paper then this may be a sewer flooding. If it’s coming from the public sewerage network we’ll look after this, simply contact us for help.

You should report sewer flooding to us immediately. Get in touch and we’ll be able to help and provide advice on what to do.

If the flooding is only affecting your home and is coming from a private drain on yours or your neighbour’s boundary, then you or the owner of the drain will need to arrange the repair.

You should contact your insurer in any case of sewer flooding. If you don’t, it may affect your future claims. 

Find out more about different types of flooding.

Sewer flooding can affect a number of areas

What to do if you experience a sewer flood

Call us on 0800 783 4444

If your home is flooded and you think it’s because of the public sewerage network, contact us.

We’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our friendly customer operations team will help you work out what’s caused the flood over the phone and what to do about it. If they can’t quite get to the bottom of it, they’ll arrange for someone to visit your property and take a look.

It might take us longer to reach you in situations of severe weather. Don’t worry - we’ll keep you updated of our timescales. When you call, please let us know if you have any individual needs or requirements. 

We will endeavour to support you in the best way we can. During these times, if safe to do so, taking photos or videos of the flooding would help us assist our understanding and aids any further investigations that may be required. 

What to do during sewer flooding.

After you’ve called us, it’s best to immediately get in touch with your insurer to let them know what’s happened.

Any loss or damage that has been caused by a flood should be covered by your home insurance. It’s a good idea to check your insurance regularly, because it’s up to you to check you’re properly covered.

If you have already taken some pictures or videos of the flooding damage, make sure you save them as these can help you with your claim.

Your home insurer should be able to:

  • Arrange a professional clean up
  • Replace anything that’s damaged
  • Arrange alternative accommodation 

Remember, if you don’t tell your insurer about something like sewer flooding, it could invalidate your Policy in the future.

If your gas meter or any gas appliance was submerged in the flood, don’t turn on the gas or light any appliances until you’ve spoken to your gas supplier.

If any of your electrics (the meter, fuse box, any appliances or sockets) have been submerged, don’t turn any of them on until you’ve spoken to your electricity supplier. Your home insurance may also be able to help with this.

We will work hard to get an engineer to your property as quickly as possible to capture evidence of the flooding.

After our engineer has visited your home, one of our flood experts will carry out a detailed review of your situation.

They will be seeking to establish the exact cause/s of the flooding.

They will also be looking at what options there may be to help prevent any reoccurrence.

Our flood expert will get in touch to update you on the findings of our review and explain what happens next and chat through the options.

We know it’s not nice to experience a sewer flood so we will go some way to support you with the costs of experiencing a flooding.

For more information on this please see the Guaranteed Standards Scheme section in this guide or read our Code of Practice.

Which drains are yours

We look after any public sewers and lateral drains that are outside the boundary of your home or that you share with your neighbours.

That just leaves you to look after the drains that take wastewater away from your home, up to the point where they connect with another property’s pipe or where they leave the property boundary. This is called a “private drain”.

For example, if you have a sewer pipe in your garden and it only takes waste from your property this is a private drain. In that case, you are usually responsible for any blockages on this pipe, including if they result in sewer flooding.

To find out if you are responsible you can contact us and we will look into this for you.

A sewage pumping station is used to move sewage from one place to another, usually to another part of the sewage system or the treatment works.

If a pumping station is within your property boundary and serves more than just your home, we have a legal responsibility to adopt this for you.

In July 2011, new regulations came into effect which began a mandatory transfer of ownership of pumping stations dealing with multiple properties.

If you think you have a pumping station on your property that should belong to us, please let us know by contacting us.

Causes of sewer blockages

75% of all our sewer blockages are caused by wrong things being put down the sink or loo.

When this happens, it builds up over time, stopping the normal flow of wastewater, which might flood your home or garden. That’s something none of us want to happen.

These are mostly caused by pouring the wrong things down the sink or flushing them down the loo – like wet wipes, sanitary products, vegetable fats and cooking oils.

Our sewers are only designed to take away the normal contents of sinks, baths, showers and toilets, so all other waste should go in the bin.

We are always working hard to keep all our sewers & drains in good condition, by replacing and repairing damaged sewers and those we think might cause problems in the future.

But, however hard we work, there will always be the odd flood that comes as an unwelcome surprise especially in heavy rainfall.

Most sewer flooding is caused by the wrong things being put down the sink or loo causing a blockage. However, flooding can also be caused by prolonged periods of intense heavy rainfall which can overwhelm the sewers, and in some cases they’re unable to carry the extra water away quickly enough.

Often flooding caused by heavy rain can be difficult to solve as there may be several contributing factors such as flooded rivers and water courses, or highway drainage. These are the responsibility of other agencies who we’ll work in partnership with to help alleviate the flooding.

Our aim will be to prioritise our customers who are worst affected by severe flooding and look for ways to help protect their homes in the future.

When Severn Trent is responsible for my sewer flood

We work really hard to encourage people not to misuse our sewers, and we ask everyone to only flush the 3Ps (pee, paper and poo). However, we know that sometimes other items make their way into the sewer and cause blockages and flooding.

Our sewers are an open network so we can’t control what gets put into them. This is different to the closed clean water network.

If the sewer flooding comes from our sewer pipes then we are usually responsible for clearing this up. This doesn’t mean we are liable for causing the flooding.

If your home insurance company believe we are liable for the sewer flood, they will contact us.

As a matter of course we ask that any query comes from your insurer as they’re best placed to make these enquiries.

Sometimes we aren’t always able to fix the problem first time. If the job is more complex than initially believed, or we need do further investigation - we may need to revisit your property at a later date.

Instances where we would be required to revisit would be if we needed to: 

  1. Carry out a sewer cleanse 
  2. Carry out a root cut 
  3. Carry out a sewer repair

If you have any questions about the above, the engineer at your property will be able to help you.

How Severn Trent can support me when there is sewer flooding at my property

We know that a sewer flooding is not a nice experience. We will try to support you as best we can e.g. disinfecting external affected hard surface areas.

For more information about our products and services please see the Sewer Flooding Products and Services.

We work hard to look after any drains and sewers that form part of our network (the public sewerage network). If you have a sewer flooding at your property, we will come out and investigate.

If we confirm the flooding has been caused by the public sewerage network, we will resolve this issue and carry out a basic external clean-up of the surrounding area.

Where a flood has been caused by something out of our control, we aren’t liable for any loss or damage to your personal belongings. For example, if the flood was caused by a one-off blockage in our sewer pipes and we cleared it quickly, we have acted reasonably so won’t be liable.

Where a flood has been caused by our public sewers or our drains, the Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS) can help. The GSS is a statutory scheme used by the whole water industry for customers where our customer service standards aren’t meeting the level required by the industry.

So, if there’s been a flood inside or outside your home that was caused by the public sewers, you might be entitled to a GSS payment. We will let you know in writing if you are eligible for a payment. We’ll make the GSS payment application for you and you will normally be paid within 20 days.

If 20 days have passed and you still haven’t been paid, you’ll also receive a late payment. Please note, any GSS payments do not mean that Severn Trent is liable for other claims. GSS payments are entirely separate from other claims.

We often can’t tell you at the time of the event whether you are eligible for a GSS payment. Our teams will look into this after the event and contact you in writing if you are due one of our GSS payments. Here’s a quick explanation of the few occasions when you won’t be entitled to a payment. This is when: 

  • The incident isn’t classed as flooding and instead is classed as an escape of sewage which is a small flooding contained in an isolated area. 
  • If we attend your home and there is no evidence of flooding e.g. the flooding has been cleaned up. 
  • The flood has been caused by extreme weather, that is above a 1 in 30-year storm. 
  • The blockage that caused the flood is found to be private. 
  • The flood was caused by a customer putting the wrong things down the drain, like fats, oils, wipes, among other things. 
  • The flood was caused by bursting riverbanks that have prevented the sewers from flowing as they should. 
  • The incident is caused by a river flooding. 
  • The incident is caused by surface water flooding from a source which Severn Trent has no responsibility

Remember, any GSS payment you receive is separate from, and in addition to, any other claims you make to your insurance provider.

For more information on our GSS process and payment structure, please visit our Code of Practice.

If there’s been a flood inside your home (internal flooding) that was caused by the public sewerage network, you’re entitled to a full refund of the sewerage charge you’ve paid for the year.

On average, the annual sewerage charge is £140, but we’ll pay £150 as a minimum. We’ll be working hard to try and prevent any future floodings. In the highly unlikely event that there is another sewer flood that affects the inside of your home, you’ll receive another refund.

What counts as internal flooding

Internal flooding does include cellars and beneath suspended floors. It doesn’t include sheds or buildings that no one lives in (these are counted as external flooding).

If you’ve suffered flooding in your garden or driveway (external flooding) as a result of the public sewerage network, you might be entitled to a payment of 50% of your sewerage charge, as a minimum we’ll pay you £75 and a maximum of £500.

You won’t receive this if the flood is classed as an escape of sewerage and not a flood. An escape of sewerage is a small amount of flooding in an isolated area.

If you are a non-household customer, speak to your retailer for advice about payments you might be entitled to receive.

Internal flooding

A refund of all your yearly sewerage charges (from a minimum of £150 to a maximum of £1000).

If you’ve suffered from flooding inside and outside your home in the same incident, we can only pay you once. This will normally be the payment for the internal flooding because that’s usually the higher amount.

Internal and external flooding

A refund of all your yearly sewerage charges (from a minimum of £150 to a maximum of £1000).

Where the payment goes

If we refund your sewerage charges, the payment will go to the account holder named on the bill and credited to the account.

You can then decide if you want to leave the credit on your account to be offset against your next bill or you can contact our billing team to arrange a refund.

If you do not have an account with us, for example you are billed by another water company, you will usually receive your payment via a cheque or we will send the payment request to your water company and they will issue the payment on our behalf.

How Severn Trent can support in the future

We understand that sometimes we find ourselves in difficult situations. During this time the last thing you want to think about is a sewer flooding therefore we’re here to support you.

Please let us know about any changes in yours or your families circumstances so we can support you as best as possible.

Register for Priority Services or contact us for more information.

Other support

Sewer Flooding Products and Services

We will

Free call out service to any sewer flooding job

We operate a free call out service where our engineers will attend your property to investigate any cases of sewer flooding.

Our customer service team will be able to give you timescales of when our engineers will attend your property.

We recommend speaking with your home insurers as soon as you can.

If the blockage is found to be private, we can offer a blockage clearance chargeable service.

Standard sewage clean up cover included – external only

To support you we will complete a standard external sewage clean up at your property, if possible, where an external clean-up can be achieved without damaging and/or removing lawns, landscaped gardens, gravel and garden furniture. 

This clean up includes removal of water by suction, removal of most solids and fibrous material and the disinfection of affected external hard surface areas. 

If there is a risk to damaging, removing or altering your property we will recommend an alternative course of action for you to take.

Advice and after care support to help get your home back to normal To help get your home back to normal, as quickly as possible, we will provide you with some information around what you should and shouldn’t do in the first few weeks after your sewer flooding. 

We won't

Removal and replacement of goods inside the house

We won’t remove/ replace carpets, flooring or items of furniture inyour property.

Please contact your insurance company.

Removal and replacement of goods outside the house

We also won’t replace or remove gravel or items from the garden e.g. sheds/ plants/ grass etc.

Cause any further damage to your property
We cannot wash down/ jet surfaces where we could potentially further damage your property.

Protecting your health and home

Here, at Severn Trent we have been working with the Water Research Centre (WRC) to produce some top tips to help you get back on track after a sewer flood.

Coronavirus such as SARS-COV-2 (Covid-19) is highly unlikely to be present and it is not thought to be spread through sewage. In fact, The World Health Organization (WHO) is clear that there is currently no evidence of Covid-19 transmitting through sewerage systems.

All our normal precautions when working with wastewater are still being adhered to, as this will provide sufficient protection against this virus and any other harmful micro-organisms.

  • Wash hands after any accidental contact with sewage. 
  • Normal cleaning products, such as diluted bleach (one tablespoon per litre), can be used to treat contaminated areas as a mild disinfectant. 
  • Decontaminate footwear by washing and treating with a mild disinfectant. 
  • Keep children and pets away from the contaminated area for at least 48 hours. 
  • If you feel unwell, contact your GP for advice explaining that your property has recently been flooded. with sewage.

We do not recommend attempting to try to clear a drain/sewer blockage yourself. Contact Severn Trent as our teams have the correct equipment to deal with sewer blockages and flooding.

If flood water is likely to enter your property use sandbags or boards if available to protect doors and airbricks.

Try to move furniture and valuables upstairs or place them somewhere safe, if safe and able to do so.

  • As a result of internal sewer flooding, you will need to revert to your household insurance for any clean up. 
  • Where possible our team will pump out the water, removing solids and sewer litter if this can be achieved without damaging fixtures and fittings or causing damage or contamination to other parts of the property. 
  • We may be able to provide a refund on your sewerage charge. However, we cannot: 
    • Dry out your property.
    • Remove or replace damaged items. 
    • Replace any structural damage.
    • Provide alternative accommodation. 
    • Pay compensation for loss or damage to your contents or property. 
  • Immediately contact your insurance company for advice particularly if items such as carpets or soft furnishings have been damaged, need further cleansing or to be replaced.
  • Take pictures of all damaged items, your insurance company may need these to process your claim. 
  • Keep windows open wherever possible to remove any disinfectant odours. 
  • Avoid any additional heating in affected areas during the first 48 hours as higher room temperatures may prolong the life of the bacteria. 
  • If you need to enter affected rooms in the 48 hours following the initial clean up, you are advised to adopt normal basic hygiene precautions. Therefore, avoid touching your mouth and wash your hands afterwards. 
  • We will carry out a standard cleanup in your garden and outside your house. Any excess liquid will be removed along with any solids and debris. 
  • As sunlight and drying out kills viruses and bacteria and, the lack of sunlight and damp conditions will prolong the life of the bacteria.
  • Applying disinfectant to gardens can kill plants and do more harm than good but if applied only use a very mild disinfectant but this is not typically effective. 
  • Let nature takes its course as most viruses and bacteria will be at or near the surface and the sunlight’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is very effective in killing them.
  • We may decide to leave the cleanup for a day or two if the ground is very waterlogged to avoid disturbing the ground and spreading the contamination. 
  • It is important that you do not attempt to dig or rake the affected area as this will spread the contamination further into the adjacent soil or turf.
  • Hard surfaces such as decking, patios, paths and drives will be disinfected by Severn Trent. 
  • You can clean any affected garden furniture, hot tubs and any children’s toys.
  • We suggest keeping off these areas for 3 hours to give the disinfectant time to take effect.
  • Your water supply is safe, clean the tap and run the water for several seconds to receive fresh water. 
  • If any electricity circuit or gas equipment has been flooded don’t use any appliance until it is has been properly tested. 
  • Call a qualified electrician or Gas Safe engineer to make sure or your insurance company may be able to help with this.

As micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses are affected by temperature, moisture, vegetation and soil type, it advisable to avoid the affected area for: 

  • In warm dry summer conditions leave 9 days
  • Damper, cooler spring/autumnal conditions leave between 12 days for spills onto turf and heavy (clay) soils; and 26 days for spills onto loose soil and sand. 
  • In wet, cold winter conditions leave 25 days.

Micro-organism contamination will die off naturally during the days following the flooding. Keep children and pets out of contaminated areas until after the quarantine period before using your garden normally again.

After these periods have expired, the micro-organisms in your garden should have reverted to the normal levels found elsewhere in neighbouring gardens.

Do not eat any fruit or vegetables from areas affected by sewage. It is safer to discard.

For more information please contact us or the Water Research Centre.

Get in touch with us if you have any questions

If you have further questions about the above guide, please contact us using web messenger, social media or get in touch by calling us on 0800 783 4444 and someone will be able to support you with your query.