More people, more hard surfaces and more rain mean our sewer network is under increasing pressure.
During heavy rainfall, the network may be overwhelmed by the amount of water getting into it and we are at increasing risk of flooding from our sewers.
This can have a devastating impact on homes and businesses. Sewer flooding can also be harmful to the environment - if sewage gets into rivers or streams, it could kill fish and other wildlife.
Blocked pipes, caused by people putting unsuitable products down the toilet or sink, also increase the risk of sewer flooding. We continue to raise awareness about this through our Love your drain campaign.
We want to reduce the risk of flooding in future and are delivering Rainwise schemes in communities that have not necessarily suffered from flooding in the past, as well as those that have.
We invest millions of pounds every year to maintain and upgrade our sewer network and safeguard our environment well into the future. We prioritise areas that have suffered, or are at potential risk of suffering, from sewer flooding.
As part of this, we are continually looking for opportunities to carry out surface water management projects in locations across the North East.
Local knowledge is very important to help us understand the flood risks affecting your community and how the surface water in that area impacts on our sewer network.
You may see us or our contractors in your area, as we collect data and work together with communities to find the right option for managing future flood risk.
If there are any customer drop-in sessions in your area, we will let you know. There will be the opportunity at these sessions for you to have your say and to help shape our plans. Click here to find out if we are working in your area.
If sewer flooding is caused by our sewer, we are responsible, but we also work in partnership with other organisations, such as the Environment Agency and local authorities.
The Environment Agency will need to be involved when flooding is from a river or water course, while flooding from the highway caused by blocked gullies (slotted grills at the edge of the road) is the responsibility of the local authority. Often, flooding can be a combination of all of these.
Traditional engineering solutions to manage rainwater such as bigger pipes and underground storage tanks, are expensive and not always the right answer to managing rainwater.
Managing rainwater in its natural environment helps us to avoid wasting energy and money treating clean rainwater and we will look to use sustainable drainage solutions (SuDS) wherever possible.
SuDS remove, store, divert or delay the speed that rainwater enters our sewer network naturally.
They may include rainwater gardens, ponds or grassed detention basins and have wider social and environmental benefits, including providing green spaces for people to go to in urban areas and creating valuable wildlife habitats.
If there is a need for us to install any flood reduction measures, whether that is a SuDS solution or a more traditional method, we will seek your views before work is carried out.
Sustainable drainage solutions
Sustainable drainage solutions (SuDS) are a natural approach to managing rainwater in urban areas and mimic the ways in which water drains away naturally.
They help to prevent surface water entering the sewer network by redirecting it to a natural watercourse, or slowing down rainwater entering the drainage system and only allowing it to enter when there is room to do so.
• Swales – long, shallow, grassed drainage channels that provide temporary storage for rainwater. They can be designed to promote infiltration into the soil where possible.
• Detention basins – open, usually flat areas of grass that are normally dry, except after major storm events. In heavy rainfall they are used to store water for a short time and they can fill with water before slowly soaking away.
• Rainwater garden – a shallow depression with absorbent soil and planted with vegetation that can withstand occasional temporary flooding by rainwater from roofs. Property downpipes are often disconnected from the drainage system and redirected to these.
• Water butts and planters – rainwater from roofs can be stored and used, helping to reduce the rates and volumes of surface water run-off.
• Geocellular storage – installed beneath roads or areas of land and used to control rainwater surface water runoff either as a soakaway or as a storage tank.
The benefits of SuDS:
• Slow down surface water run-off and reduce the risk of our sewer network becoming overwhelmed in times of heavy rainfall.
• Provide valuable habitats for wildlife in urban areas.
• Creating green spaces for people in urban areas.
• Improve the quality of surface water entering rivers and streams.
• Can reduce the impact of climate change by lowering the temperature during a heat wave.
For further information about SuDS please visit www.susdrain.org.
What can you do? Our top tips!
You too can reduce the amount of water getting into our sewers and help prevent sewer flooding and pollution.
This will help to improve the local environment, as well as saving you water and money.
• Reduce the amount of water getting into our sewer system by using water wisely.
Top tip: Switching the tap off while you brush your teeth can save up to six litres of water each time. Click here for more water saving tips.
• Connect the downpipe from your rainwater guttering to a water butt to capture rainwater.
Top tip: You can use this to water your plants or wash your car.
• Reduce the amount of hard surfaces in your garden or yard by using rainwater planters or de-paving your drive. This will reduce the amount of rainwater going directly into the drains.
Top tip: The rainwater planters can be used to produce herbs and vegetables for easy use in cooking.
• Use permeable paving when renewing patios and drives which absorb rainwater and allow it to filter naturally through the ground.
• Slow the flow of rainwater getting into the sewer system by creating a rain garden (a planted, shallow depression) that rainwater can flow into.
Top tip: Plant up with native vegetation that is happy with occasional inundations.
• Blocked pipes can increase the risk of sewer flooding. Only toilet paper, pee and poo go down the loo and when cooking, put fats, oils and greases in the bin, not the sink.
Top tip: You could put the fats, oils and greases into a container, add some seeds and cord, allow to cool and hang in your garden to feed the birds. Click here to find out what Dwaine Pipe has to say about looking after your drain.
We have teamed up with Save Water Save Money to offer our customers a wide choice of water butts and other water saving products at bargain prices. Follow the ‘Order a water butt online’ link on this page to purchase yours today.
Are you Rainwise?
Raising awareness about how to manage rainwater in the natural environment is an important part of our work to help reduce the risk of flooding.
We want to help communities get wise to managing rainwater, understand how the drainage system works, which agencies are responsible for what, and build resilience to climate change.
We support the communities we’re working in and work with schools where we can.
If you have any queries, or want to discuss Rainwise further, call us on 0345 717 1100.