Blocked pipes

In the ACT, leaseholders are responsible for maintaining the sanitary drain and clear access to the sewerage and stormwater systems. They must also ensure stormwater runoff is not connected to the household sanitary drainage system. 

In the ACT property owners (aka leaseholders) are responsible for maintaining the sanitary drain. This includes clearing access to the sewerage and stormwater systems. They must also ensure stormwater runoff is not connected to the internal sanitary drainage system.  

Who’s responsible for blockages? 

We are responsible for maintaining the public network which includes clearing blockages and repairing damage or deterioration. This includes ‘sewer ties’, which is where your internal plumbing joins our network along the lease boundary. This ‘sewer tie’ is usually marked by a ‘sewer riser’ (aka an inspection shaft).  

Blockages on the private side of the ‘sewer tie’ are the responsibility of the property owner. Most blockages occur when: 

  • Roots from trees and shrubs tap into pipes. 
  • Hot fat is tipped down sinks, cooling and solidifying. 
  • Objects enter the system. 
  • Pipes break from excavations, or heavy vehicles being driven over them. 

For more information on blockages, and your responsibilities as a property owner, please read sewerage services and blockages and/or sewerage network boundaries and responsibilities.

What to do if a blockage occurs 

If you are experiencing:  

  • Overflowing sewer access chamber covers.  
  • Overflowing external grates (that continue to overflow when no internal fixtures, such as toilets, are running).  

Please dial 02 6248 3111 and report it immediately. 

For other blockages, the first thing you should do is check your property’s inspection shaft. You’ll find one of two things, either:  

1. The shaft is filling with water. This means the fault is likely in our network and you should contact our Emergency and Faults team by dialling 02 6248 3111.  

  • They’ll arrange for a team to come out and take a look. If the issue is in our network we’ll fix it free of charge. If our team finds that the problem is in your plumbing, then you’ll have to contact a licensed plumber to resolve the issue.  

2. The shaft isn’t filling with water. This means the fault is likely in your plumbing. You should contact a licensed plumber to resolve your issue.  

  • If they find that the issue is actually in our network, then we will reimburse you for the cost of hiring the plumber. 

If your property lacks an inspections shaft, please contact our Emergency and Faults team by dialling 02 6248 3111. They can give you advice on how to proceed.  

If a licensed plumber has found an issue in our network we’ll reimburse the cost of their services. Please visit our plumbing reimbursement page for more information.  

Preventing blockages 

The following steps will assist in preventing blockages: 

  • Choose appropriate trees and shrubs for planting near pipes. 
  • Don't pour fat down sinks or drains. 
  • Check the location of pipes and drains before excavating. 
  • Don't flush objects down toilets. 
  • Keep external grates and covers in place to stop objects entering drains. 

Trees and shrubs 

Tree and shrub roots are a major cause of pipe blockages. Roots tap into soil moisture and nutrients. When these are not readily available many species try to break into the sewer system. Once tree roots break into a pipe they continue to grow until blockages happen. In severe cases this breaks the pipe.  

When planting it is advisable to locate trees the recommended distance from sewer lines. For advice on suitable trees and shrubs talk to your local nursery.  

For information on clearing blocked sewers and drains, please contact our Emergency and Faults team by dialling 02 6248 3111 and selecting option 1 (available 24 hours).