Climate change is no excuse not to compensate repeat sewer flooding victims

Steve Grebby, Policy Manager
Steve Grebby, Policy Manager

Sewer flooding has long been a blight on the lives of many families in England and Wales. Yet in the almost 30 years I have worked in the sector there hasn’t been much advancement in support for the people whose homes fall victim to the contents of other peoples toilets.

And it is a problem that is not going away. With the climate changing and more intense storms predicted, the frailties of our drainage system are being exposed more than ever. Companies are taking a huge step towards predicting flood risk and being better prepared through the Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans. But these are in their infancy; they will provide little comfort in the meantime to those whose homes or gardens are repeatedly flooded with sewage.

In 2020-21 almost half of all wastewater complaints escalated by customers to CCW were associated with internal or external sewer flooding. Severe wet weather between September 2020 and January 2021 was a significant factor but, rather than an anomaly, this could be a snapshot of what is to become the norm.

What do CCW want to see happen?

It is vital that sewer flooding victims no longer feel like their companies have turned their backs on them. CCW’s goal, as part of our End Sewer Flooding Misery campaign, is to improve protection for those affected and raise the bar for customer service. We’ve been working with companies to identify and share best practice, and have identified three main areas where change is needed.

We’re calling for:

An end to the “exceptional” weather clause for those at risk

It is an insult to repeat sewer flood victims that companies can hide behind the weather as an excuse to refuse compensation. That must end.

The industry must review what now constitutes exceptional weather. Our climate has become more volatile since the current clause was written and, as a result, it is no longer fit for purpose.

Improved compensation for repeat flood victims

Compensation for people who are repeatedly flooded needs to better to reflect the trauma and disruption it causes them.

CCW are bringing the industry together to find out what companies currently do and what good compensation looks like.

Companies don’t have to wait for the regulator to tell them to do the right thing for their customers – they can act now.

Minimum standards on call-out times and clean-up quality

At the moment, companies write their own rules about the standard of support, which has resulted in a postcode lottery. We want to establish what good looks like and raise the bar across the whole industry.

CCW thinks that, at very least, companies should aim to:

  • Be with sewer flooding victims within hours, not days
  • Keep victims informed with regular updates throughout the incident
  • Ensure that every clean-up is done to a standard that satisfies the customer

Above all, what customers want more than anything is not to live in fear of being flooded – that’s why companies must identify and prioritise those most at risk and invest in finding long-term solutions.

Adapting to climate change is a must for us all. But no one should have to adapt to repeat sewer flooding. Help us end sewer flooding misery. Find out more about our campaign.