Our “End Sewer Flooding Misery” campaign aimed to help people who have experienced the terrible experience of being flooded by sewage, either in their gardens or inside their homes. We particularly wanted to support those who have been affected more than once and are afraid of it happening again.

We conducted research with Ofwat called “Customer Experiences of Sewer Flooding“, where we asked victims how they felt about the service they received. The results showed that improvements were needed urgently.

We are happy to say that sewerage companies have recognised that their service to customers should improve. Together, we have made positive progress by sharing good ideas and agreeing what needs to change.

Every company has carried out a review of the service they were providing, made changes in areas that could be improved quickly or have committed improving aspects of their service and support during 2023-24.

We will be following up the campaign work to ensure companies keep their promises to make improvements. We will do this individually with companies at a local level and continue to share best practice and examine what is working and what isn’t. However, the real test of whether the campaign has made a difference will be when we ask customers about their experiences and whether they feel any different about the support they receive from their company than they did in 2022. We will carry out this research in partnership with Ofwat in early 2024.

What we have achieved

During the campaign, the following improvements were made by companies:

Support

  • All sewer flooding victims will now have an individual case manager or dedicated team to speak to.
  • Executive teams of all companies will regularly review sewer flooding cases that take some time to resolve.
Company Case Management Exec Review
Anglian Water Offers Offers
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water Offers Offers
Northumbrian Water Offers Offers
Wessex Water Offers Offers
Severn Trent Water Offers Offers
South West Water Offers Offers
Thames Water Offers Offers
United Utilities Offers Offers
Yorkshire Water Offers Offers
Southern Water Offers Offers
Hafren Dyfrdwy Offers Offers

Clean up service

  • The clean-up service provided after sewage flooding is now clearly explained on all company websites.
  • 9 companies will now clean up sewage from inside homes (an increase from 2 companies).
Company Clear clean up policy Internal clean up carried out
Anglian Water Offers Offers
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water Offers Offers
Northumbrian Water Offers Offers
Wessex Water Offers Offers
Severn Trent Water Offers Doesn’t offer
South West Water Offers Offers
Thames Water Offers Offers
United Utilities Offers Offers
Yorkshire Water Offers Offers
Southern Water Offers Offers
Hafren Dyfrdwy Offers Doesn’t offer

Response times

  • 9 companies aim to respond to internal sewage flooding within 2 hours (an increase from 2 companies), and 2 more aim to offer this in the future.
  • 8 companies aim to respond to external sewer flooding within 4 hours (an increase from 3 companies), and 3 more aim to offer this in the future.
Company 2 hours for internal flooding 4 hours for external flooding
Anglian Water Offers Offers
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water Offers Offers
Northumbrian Water Offers Offers
Wessex Water Offers Offers
Severn Trent Water Offers Offers
South West Water Offers Offers
Thames Water Aim to offer Aim to offer
United Utilities Offers Aim to offer
Yorkshire Water Aim to offer Aim to offer
Southern Water Offers Offers
Hafren Dyfrdwy Offers Offers

Compensation

  • Customers at risk of repeat sewer flooding will always receive compensation regardless of exceptional weather.
  • 6 companies will now offer out-of-pocket expenses.
  • 6 companies offer a contribution to insurance costs.
  • 7 companies will now waive yearly charges for those who have been repeatedly sewer flooded (an increase from 1 company), and 3 more companies are reviewing their policy on this.
  • 6 companies give automatic statutory payments for external flooding (2 under review).
  • All companies now offer a contribution to accommodation costs for those in vulnerable circumstances who need to move out due to flooding.
Company Receive GSS if at risk Out of pocket expenses Insurance excess / premium / losses Waive charges Auto GSS for external flooding Accommodation
Anglian Water Offers Offers Doesn’t offer Offers Offers Offers
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water Offers Offers Offers Offers Offers Offers
Northumbrian Water Offers Doesn’t offer Offers Offers Doesn’t offer Offers
Wessex Water Offers Offers Offers Offers Offers Offers
Severn Trent Water Offers Doesn’t offer Doesn’t offer Offers Offers Offers
South West Water Offers Offers Offers Aim to offer Doesn’t offer Offers
Thames Water Offers Aim to offer Aim to offer Aim to offer Aim to offer Offers
United Utilities Offers Offers Offers Aim to offer Offers Offers
Yorkshire Water Offers Doesn’t offer Offers Doesn’t offer Doesn’t offer Offers
Southern Water Offers Offers Doesn’t offer Offers Aim to offer Offers
Hafren Dyfrdwy Offers Doesn’t offer Doesn’t offer Offers Offers Offers

Improvements made by companies

We know that every company has its own way of doing things, and each company faced different challenges when we asked them to improve how they support customers affected by flooding. There are many ways to make things better for customers, and we have seen that companies have tried different approaches to make improvements, especially when it comes to compensation.

Case management

All companies have agreed to provide a person or a team to help victims of flooding. They will support the victims throughout the entire process, including cleaning up and giving regular updates to the customer until the problem is solved. This means the customer won’t have to keep calling the company for updates. The companies will also improve their record keeping, so the customer won’t have to repeat their story if they speak to someone new.

Executive Review

When fixing a flooding problem takes a long time, we suggested that a group of important people in the company meet regularly to check on progress and keep the customer updated. All companies have agreed to do this.

Clear clean up policy

Different companies had different procedures for cleaning up after a flood, which caused confusion. Customers weren’t sure what they needed to do to keep themselves and their families safe. All companies have looked at their websites and information given to customers and made it clear what they will and will not do. They’ve also included extra advice to help customers protect themselves and their families.

Internal clean up

Some companies didn’t want to help clean up inside a home after a flood because they were worried it would affect the customer’s insurance claim. But sometimes the flood doesn’t cause a lot of damage and it can be fixed by just cleaning up the affected area. Almost all companies will now help with this type of cleaning if it’s appropriate.

Response times to a flooding incident

Some companies didn’t give a clear time frame for when they would come to help if a property was flooded. This caused customers to feel anxious and unsure about what was happening. We didn’t think “as soon as possible” was good enough, so we challenged companies to aim for responding within 2 hours for internal flooding and 4 hours for external flooding.

We understand that during very heavy rain, it might not be possible for companies to respond within this time frame. In those cases, companies should let customers know what’s happening and give alternative time frames.

Compensation

Compensation is currently provided through the Water Industry Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS), which offers a refund of the yearly charges the customer has paid if they are flooded.

We didn’t think this was enough and were worried that some victims might end up losing money. We want companies to operate under the principle that victims of sewer flooding should not be left out of pocket.

To make this happen, we looked at what each company was offering as compensation and suggested some changes they could make, such as:

  • Making sure that people at risk always get compensation, even if the flooding was caused by “exceptional” weather.
  • Covering any costs or giving a £100 payment for cleaning up after internal flooding.
  • Refunding uninsured losses, insurance excesses, and increased insurance premiums caused by the flooding.
  • Letting customers who are at risk skip paying their wastewater bill until the problem is fixed.
  • Automatically giving compensation to customers who experience external flooding, without them needing to fill out a form.
  • Considering giving extra money to vulnerable customers who need help paying for temporary accommodation or have critical health issues.