Being flooded with sewage – particularly inside our home or business – is one of the worst ways our wastewater company can fail us and the environment. It shouldn’t happen but during 2019-20 there was a 14 per cent increase in the number of properties that were flooded as a result of a company sewer.

Some households and businesses even have to endure the misery of being flooded more than once. It must be particularly frustrating for these repeated victims of flooding that the compensation payout by wastewater companies can leave you out of pocket. Added to this, the clean up or help towards an increase in insurance premiums can be slow.

We think this all needs to change

That is why we want additional support and compensation for those who suffer repeated sewer flooding, coupled with more widely improved service standards for all those affected.

It isn’t just about fixing things well if they go wrong. We also want to see the wastewater companies preventing flooding before it happens by working together, with other flood risk agencies, to better plan and anticipate where the problems will happen.

Sewer flooding can often be the result of a range of different factors, and planning through the long-term Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans will require a multi-agency approach and ultimately investment. These plans are where companies, and other flood risk agencies, look ahead to understand the risk of sewer flooding in their patch, which allows them to get ahead of the game in finding solutions to future capacity problems.

To help resolve sewer flooding more widely, consumers will need to be more aware of the impact that wet wipes and other ‘unflushables’ can have on causing sewer blockages. Responsible disposal of these items can reduce blockages and therefore sewer flooding and pollution. We will be working with the industry to ensure a joined up approach to getting the ‘don’t flush it!’ message into consumers’ minds.

To deliver our campaign, we will:

  • Develop a bespoke campaign identity that combines impactful design with a cohesive narrative that resonates with its intended audience and supports the objective above.
  • Act on behalf of those being repeatedly flooded to get the problem investigated, mitigated and long-term remedies identified with better compensation until the issue is resolved.
  • Run a best practice session with the sector, so those wastewater companies leading the field can share their good ideas and a consensus can be formed on what a ‘good service’ looks like.
  • Investigate which companies still use the exceptional weather caveat (which means a wastewater company doesn’t need to pay out), and whether it is fit for purpose.
  • Get companies to commit to cleaning up after sewer flooding in all circumstances where their asset is responsible.
  • Get companies to commit to a standard on site response time for inside and outside sewer flooding.
  • Compensation to be aligned so the financial and emotional losses are considered, for example, in some cases this could be covering the customer’s insurance excess, as a minimum.
  • Work in partnership with wastewater companies, regulators and other flood risk agencies to inform the development of drainage and wastewater management plans.
  • Work across England and Wales with wastewater companies to monitor performance against their internal sewer flooding performance commitment.
  • Work in partnership with the water sector and play a strong role in informing consumers about sewer misuse, for example from fats, oils, grease and wet wipes.
  • Work in partnership on a Taskforce on sewer overflows to help reduce pollution in the environment.

As a result, we want to see:

  • More support and compensation for those who suffer repeat sewer flooding by 2023.
  • Standard on site times by 2023 and a review of how the compensation is offered.
  • After reviewing the exceptional weather caveat, we may want the exceptional weather ‘get out’ removed from companies’ policies by 2023.