Water pipe responsibility

Who maintains the pipework and who to contact if you have any problems.

Understanding pipe responsibility

There a two main groups who are responsible for water pipes:

The types of pipes and who maintains them

A table to show what each type of pipe is for, and who is responsible for maintaining it.

Type of pipe Usually found under Responsibility for pipe
Water mains

These are the major pipes that carry water to the road you live on.

  • Highway
Water company
Communication pipe

These pipes connect the water main to your supply pipe.

  • Highway
Water company
Supply pipe serving a single property

Supply pipes connect your home to the communication pipe.

  • Highway
  • Property owner’s land
  • Land owned by someone else
Property owner
Shared supply pipe serving more than one property

A shared supply pipe connects several homes to a communication pipe.

  • Highway
  • Land owned by any of the property owners served by the pipe
  • Land owned by someone else
Joint responsibility of all property owners served by pipe

Diagram of pipe network

We've created a diagram of an example street to help demonstrate which pipes you are responsible for, and which pipe's we're responsible for. 

It's drawn as if you're looking down on the buildings from above, and looking through the ground to the pipes below.

On there you can see the water main, running through the centre of the road.

You can also see the communication pipes splitting off the main and leading to the property boundaries.

There is also the supply pipes, connecting homes to the communication pipes.


Please be aware that the water main or communication pipe that supplies your property may be in a different highway from the one immediately outside your property. The responsibility of the company ends at the boundary of the highway in which the relevant main or communication pipe is laid.

From the boundary of the highway, the water is then supplied to the property through a supply pipe. This means the property owner (or group of property owners where numerous properties are served by the supply pipe) is responsible for their supply pipe, even if it crosses other privately or publicly-owned land before entering their home.

Some properties may also have a secondary stop tap in addition to the controlling stop tap closest to the main – liability for the supply pipe does not change with the presence of a secondary stop tap on the private supply pipe.

Check how your water supply is set up when you move into a new home

If you're moving in to a new home, and the property is over 20 years old, we recommend that you find out about the condition of the pipework. 

If supply pipes are neglected it can affect the water supply and damaged pipes can go unnoticed, storing up problems for the future.

Your supply pipe could be 100 years old or more. This can become problematic when you fit modern appliances like washing machines and power showers in older homes as the Victorian pipework is not designed to cope with such high water use.

If you experience poor supply or pressure, it could be due to older pipework, so it's worh finding out how your home is connected and making changes to your pipes if necessary.

The kind of supply your home is likely to have

Generally, different types of homes have different types of supply.

Housing estates, particularly council estates, were usually built with one large pipe running along the back of the homes that feeds into each house, meaning there is shared responsibility for the large pipe.

Of course there could have been many things done to your property since your home was built that means your home doesn't fit into these categories, so it's always best to find out

Pipe responsibility on a shared supply

A shared supply - also often called a joint supply - is where a group of homes connect to our network at the same point. This means all properties share responsibility for repair and maintenance of the pipework.

Find out if you're on a shared supply

You can find out if you're on a shared supply by checking how many external stop taps are outside your home.

External stop taps or boundary boxes are usually found in the pavement at the property.

If there is an external stop tap outside every home on the street, then each home will have its own supply.

If there's only one, you are likely to be on a shared supply with your neighbours.

Making changes to pipework on a shared supply

If you want to make changes to pipework on a shared or joint supply, it's best to advise your neigbours and discuss the work with them first.

If one of you wants to leave the shared supply, you may find that it makes practical sense for each of the members of the shared supply to switch too.

Moving to single supplies at the same time would mean only having to pay for cost of one Highways Permit for the team carrying out the work.

Leaving a shared supply

You can leave a shared supply and connect your home to the network.

You will need to arrange a new connection with us and make sure an accredited plumber relays your private pipework.

We will connect that private pipework to our network once it has been inspected and we have confirmed that it meets the required standards.

It's vital that we are able to check and approve any new private pipework before connection, so we can make sure it's safe to use.

Who to contact if there’s a problem with water pipes in a public space

If you encounter a problem in a public space, such as a leak on a road or pathway, we will be responsible for fixing it. 

You can report a problem like this to us on our website, by webchat or by calling our customer care team on 0800 783 4444.

Who to contact if there’s a problem with water pipes at your property

Leaks and bursts on private property are your responsibility. But if you need help, we’ll be able to give you advice on what to do and how to fix the problem.  

You may need to contact your insurer before getting in touch with a plumber to make the necessary repairs.

We would recommend that you use a approved plumber near you to carry out any work.