Last edited 25 Jun 2021


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A drain is a pipe that serves only one building as a means of conveying water and waste water away to a sewer.

A lateral drain is a section of drain positioned outside the boundary of a building, connecting with the drains from other buildings to become a sewer.

Drains within the boundary of a building are the responsibility of the owner (unless the drains of other properties run through their property), including liability for any maintenance and repairs. Insurance can be taken out to cover work on private drains.

The environmental health department of a local authority can order a property owner to carry out improvement or replacement works in certain circumstances, such as if the drain is in poor condition and is causing a blockage. The local authority may undertake the works and charge the property owner for them.

On 6 September 2010 the government announced that most lateral drains connected to the public sewer network would be transferred to the ownership of the regulated sewerage companies in England and Wales. Lateral drains that were connected to the public sewer network before 1 July 2011 were transferred on 1 October 2011.

NB the term 'drain' may also be used to refer to an opening that allows surface water or waste water to enter an underground network of pipes (typically with a metal grill preventing leaves and other debris from entering the pipes) or to the underground network of pipes itself.

A french drain is a trench that has a land drain installed at the bottom of the trench and has been backfilled with shingle or similar coarse stone. For more infomation see: Frech drain.

Sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) are systems designed to efficiently manage the drainage of surface water, providing an alternative to, or addition to, traditional drainage systems where surface water is drained directly and quickly into underground, piped drainage. For more information see: Sustainable urban drainage systems

An underdrain is: ‘An underground drain or trench with openings through which the water may percolate from the soil or ground above.’ Ref Containment systems for the prevention of pollution, Secondary, tertiary and other measures for industrial and commercial premises (CIRIA C736), published by CIRIA in 2014.

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