The following is advice relating to property drainage. If you require advice on highway drainage, that is, gullies or grids which take water off the highway, please refer to our  blocked drains and gullies page.

Drains are pipes which carry waste and surface water from a single house. When one drain meets another, it becomes a sewer. Maintenance of drains is normally the responsibility of the property owner.

Lateral drains

A lateral drain is that part of a private drain outside the boundary of a property to the point at which it connects with a sewer either in the road or in your neighbour’s garden. Any lateral drains that are outside your property boundary or are under the highway outside your home become the responsibility of United Utilities. If you suspect you are experiencing a problem with a lateral drain please contact United Utilities on 0845 746 2200.

(Image courtesy of United Utilities)


A sewer is a pipeline carrying sewage and/or surface water from more than one property. From 1st October 2011 most sewers became the responsibility of United Utilities to maintain (but see "Other issues" below). If you have a sewer problem please contact United Utilities on 0845 746 2200.

Blocked drains

If your drain is blocked you will usually know because your waste will stop going away when you flush the toilet, or gullies outside will overflow. There will also probably be a smell around drains and inspection chambers. If none of your neighbours are affected then the likelihood is that your drain is blocked. If your neighbours are also affected it is likely that there is a problem on the sewer.

What should I do if my drains are blocked?

Responsibility for the clearance of blockages in and repairs to private drains usually lies with the property owner, unless you suspect that the problem is beyond your property boundary or under the highway. In this case you will need to contact United Utilities. If you are sure the problem is on a private drain, check if you are covered by any insurance schemes you may have. If you cannot clear the blockage yourself, you can contact a specialist drainage contractor or plumber to clear the drain and/or carry out any repairs.

Bolton Council's drainage service

Bolton Council has a specialist drainage team who can carry out a range of services including clearing blocked drains, undertaking drainage camera surveys and carrying out repairs to damaged drains. All work is competitively priced and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a weeks.

For further details, contact us on 01204 336600.

Blocked or defective sewers

Responsibility for the clearance of blockages in and repairs to most drains outside your property boundary including lateral drains and sewers will normally be the responsibility of United Utilities. If you think you have a problem on a lateral drain or sewer, you should report it to United Utilities by telephoning 0845 746 2200.

If you live in rented accommodation and have a drainage problem, contact your landlord or housing association. For Bolton at Home tenants, call: 01204 328000, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Other issues

If your problem relates to a drainage issue on a neighbouring property that is not being dealt with, officers of the Council may be able to investigate and refer the matter to the appropriate agency or take enforcement action where appropriate.

Pipes and equipment that are not be the responsibility of United Utilities or the Local Authority include:-

  • Water supply pipes within your property boundary.
  • Existing surface water sewers that do not drain to a public sewer.
  • Privately owned sewage treatment works and pipes connected to them.
  • Privately owned septic tanks and cesspits.

However, if you experience a problem with any of these, we may be able to offer advice or help.

If you are experiencing a flooding problem and know that it is from a main river you should contact the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60.

If you are experiencing a flooding problem due to rainfall or from a spring or small watercourse please report this to the drainage team at Bolton Council. 

Drainage Team

Floor 4

The Wellsprings

Victoria Square



Telephone 01204 336677
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