In 2003, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) suggested that ownership of private drains and sewers should be transferred to statutory water and sewerage companies.

Four years later, Defra announced that the transfer would go ahead and in July 2007 Defra sought feedback as to how that transfer could be achieved.

Defra has now issued a consultation on draft regulations for the transfer of private sewers and lateral drains to the ownership of the statutory water and sewerage companies. Subject to Parliamentary approval (and in Wales, approval by the National Assembly for Wales), the regulations are expected to come into force in April 2011. If they come into force, they will provide for an immediate transfer of ownership of private sewers and lateral drains on 1 October 2011.

Owners of private sewers will not have to do anything to effect the transfer, but they will have the ability to appeal the decision if they wish to retain ownership. There are also a number of exclusions (such as sites under common ownership with their own internal drainage arrangements) and exemptions (such as Crown land and land owned by a railway undertaker) referred to in the consultation document.

Initial comments should be made by 7 October 2010 to identify the main issues and questions, with final responses due by 18 November 2010.