In October 2011 the government transferred ownership of most of the private sewers in England and Wales to the 10 water and sewerage companies, to bring them into the public sewer network.
The transfer ended a complex system which for half of the nation meant that homeowners had responsibility for private sewers and laterals beyond their property boundary. For the rest of the nation, the pipework and connections were maintained by water and sewerage companies.
Today, the pipework within a property boundary - connecting drains from the property to the sewer or lateral drain - remains the responsibility of the property owner unless other properties drain through those pipes. If the pipes are shared by multiple properties, the water and sewerage company look after those pipes.
As well as ending confusion among homeowners and sharing sewer maintenance costs more fairly among all customers, the change meant that the whole wastewater network could be managed more efficiently by the specialist water and sewerage companies. New sewers were also required to be built to an approved standard to ensure the integrity of the network as it expands to include new properties.
The decision to transfer ownership came after almost a decade of discussion, research and consultation led by government and involving water companies, customer groups, local authorities, regulators and other stakeholders.
The private sewers transfer was one element of an ongoing wider policy discussion about how we can manage our national infrastructure in a better and more integrated way and develop improved wastewater management. This bigger picture extends to managing surface water drainage, preventing sewer blockages, bringing environmental improvements and reducing the sewer overload that can result in flooding.