What is the Difference Between a Sewer and a Drain?

When you’re not dealing with drains and drainage issues every day, keeping up with the technical terms and differences between each can cause no end of frustration and confusion. However, it can also be important if you’ve had a problem with a pipe somewhere on or around your property, because that knowledge may mean the difference between you having to pay for the work the system needs, or letting someone else take care of it. Knowing the difference between a sewer and a drain is part of this, because these two terms are often used interchangeably when they don’t necessarily refer to the same system.

At Coastal Drains, we are proud to call ourselves experts in the handling of all kinds of drains, and we know the difference between a sewer and a drain. We’re more than prepared to explain this to our customers as well, before being called out to handle any drainage problem a property may be facing. Contact us when you need this service for your home or business, and we’ll be ready to do the same for your pipes as well.

What is a Drain?

A drain is a pipe which serves one property, either by taking wastewater away from a home or business, or by providing it with clean, freshwater for drinking and other uses. The pipes around your property and that sit within your property boundary are considered drains for this purpose, and together they make up your drainage system.

There are a number of different types of drains, both natural and artificial, and each serves a different purpose. If there is ever a problem with your system it’s important to know which drain is being affected. This may give any professional service you call an advantage when the time comes to fix it, saving time and money and getting every part of your property back to full working order as soon as possible.

If a drain is designed to take away surface water, it is highly suggested that you ensure it doesn’t meet up and mix in with the water in your sewer drains. This is because sewers can quickly become overwhelmed by the excess water, disrupting the treatment process as it happens.

What is a Lateral Drain?

A lateral drain is a section of your drainage that sits just outside your property boundary. It’s there to connect your property’s pipes to the main drains and public sewer system, and is often shared between your own home or business and the properties surrounding yours. As such, lateral drains may run under properties, or across boundaries in both the front and back of your own home.

What is a Sewer?

A sewer (also called a “sewerage system”) is an underground network of pipes that sit outside your property boundary, normally underneath the main road. They’re connected to buildings via lateral drains, and serve to take away all sewage and human waste to the nearest public treatment plants. Once this water has been treated and is as clean as the process can make it, it will then be discharged into a watercourse.

Sewers are always artificially constructed, as they need to flow to the nearest public treatment works, where the waste will be removed from the water. 

Determining Responsibility for Sewers and Drains

In most cases, the main difference between a sewer and a drain is who is responsible for its cleaning and maintenance. Drains and private sewers found within the boundary of a property are the responsibility of the owner to fix. As such, if you own your own home or business, you’ll be in charge of making sure someone is called out to unblock, repair or replace your drains whenever needed. You can also take out an insurance claim in order to pay for the work to be done.

If you’re renting the property you live in, responsibility for your drains may fall to your landlord. However, this isn’t always the case, so you may wish to take a look at your tenancy agreement. On occasion, they’ll come with clauses that detail which of you is responsible for calling on a specialist service, so it’s always worth checking if you wish to be sure.

Public sewers and lateral drains used to be the responsibility of property owners, but the rules have changed. Most are now maintained by local water companies, so if you’ve been having issues with a pipe leading up to your property but it doesn’t cross your boundary line, you’ll need to get in touch with your water authority to get them to take care of it. 

It should also be noted that local water companies have a right to access your property if they need to unblock or repair a sewer or lateral drain. Knowing this should prevent any surprises, should you find them at your doorstep one day!

Having Your Drains Serviced

All drains found within the boundary of your property will be your responsibility to have mended or cleaned out. Whether a pipe has a blockage that you can’t remove by yourself, has sprung a leak and needs repair work, or even if it’s collapsed and needs replacing entirely, it will be entirely up to you to ensure that a reliable, professional drainage service is called to sort the problem out. 

At Coastal Drains, we are more than prepared to tackle a wide variety of drainage issues for your property, no matter if you need them unblocked, repaired, or replaced. We’ll even be able to carry out a fast, accurate CCTV drain survey if you’re not sure what the problem is, before coming up with the correct solution to ensure your drains are kept working just as they should.

For Expertly Efficient Drain Services

If you are based on the South Coast and need a dedicated, experienced drainage engineer to take a look at any kind of problem with pipes on your property, contact us today. We love what we do and we want your drains to work to the standards you both expect and deserve, so we’ll send out one of our team as soon as we can to take a look at the issues you’ve been having.

With the help of the latest technology and a range of professional services, any one of our team members should be able to see your pipes flowing as they should be in no time at all, at a price which suits your budget. Contact us today and let us get both your drains and your regular routine back to normal in no time.

Author: Greg Child

Greg is an expert in drainage and has been in the business for over 30 years. He's the owner of Coastal Drains Ltd and a very, very friendly chap.