When pipes leak water and sewage

Drainage issues can cause serious problems if they are not addressed. The issues may arise when used water that normally goes down sinks, toilets and drains starts leaking from a pipe. People can get very sick if exposed to raw sewage as it contains harmful bacteria.

Property owners are responsible for the water pipes connected to their place, including those that are shared with neighbours. This is regardless of where the pipes are located on the land. While disputes can sometimes take place, the City of Sydney encourages neighbours to share the cost of repair when pipes suffer from drainage problems.

Carrying out drainage work

Only a licensed plumber can carry out drainage inspections and maintenance.

When to contact a plumber

Many underground pipe issues are noticed when there is a blockage somewhere in the property. Blockages must be cleared before drainage problems are investigated. Contact a plumber if you notice:

  • a sink overflowing
  • waste coming out of an inspection chamber (used for sewer access by inspectors)
  • a toilet emptying very slowly
  • a foul smell that doesn’t go away
  • dirty water, toilet paper or sewage coming up on to land
  • water escaping from an underground pipe and washing away soil.

Repeated blockings may be the sign of damaged pipes that need to be repaired. Speak to your plumber about your concerns.

The City’s role

If you are concerned that your neighbours are not helping to have a drainage problem fixed, the City can intervene where there is a risk to public safety. We can investigate complaints about private drainage that are not resolved by building owners. The City has the power to issue a property owner with an order or notice under the Local Government Act 1993 and/or Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, to repair broken sewer or storm water drainage pipes to ensure land is or premises are kept in a safe and healthy condition.

Under law, the City also has the power to direct the occupier or owner of the premise to immediately engage a licensed plumber to investigate and repair a damaged or blocked sewer system.

Sydney Water

Mains sewers are the responsibility of Sydney Water. You can obtain copies of drainage plans from Sydney Water to see who shares certain sections of the pipe network.

You should contact Sydney Water immediately if you notice sewage is coming from a utility hole cover on the road or footpath.


City of Sydney
Health and Building Unit
02 9265 9333

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Last updated: Monday, 20 January 2020