Under new water industry regulations, The Water Industry (Schemes for Adoption of Private Sewers) Regulations 2011, sewerage undertakers are to be responsible for all private sewers and lateral drains linking into the public sewerage system.

Landowners and developers happy for their existing private system to be adopted need not do anything; the transfer of sewers and lateral drains will happen automatically on 1 October this year. Associated pumping stations will transfer within the following five years. Any private owner wishing to retain their apparatus must appeal the adoption. Ofwat has published guidance for the handling of appeals which should be published shortly.

For those with a section 104 agreement in place, adoption will continue to be governed by existing agreements up until the automatic transfer. From then on, the section 104 agreements (section 104 of the Water Industry Act 1991) are treated as terminated in respect of the adopted sewers and lateral drains except that sewerage undertakers will continue to benefit from any security that has been given.

There are exemptions. Highway drains and sewers and the private sewerage systems owned by railway undertakers will not transfer. Nor, if authorities follow an opt-out procedure, will sewers and lateral drains within state and Crown-owned land.