Water and sewerage services


England’s population is growing. That means what we need from our water system and sewerage network is changing.

We need to update our water systems and sewerage systems to adapt to these changes, and we need to make these updates safely and sustainably. That means planning for the future as well as looking after current requirements.


Drainage and sewers

We’ve transferred the ownership of private sewers from individual householders to sewerage companies. This has freed thousands of people from being charged for maintenance on pipes which they often didn’t realise they were responsible for.

The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 contains powers to change the law so that water and sewage companies will be responsible for new sewers.

Surface water flooding can happen when, for example, rainwater gets into homes and businesses instead of draining away. We’re planning to make changes so we can deal with surface water flooding better.

Over 2.8 million people are at risk from surface water flooding. We’re introducing sustainable drainage systems to help them.

Water efficiency

We want to help people save water at home. We’re doing this by:

  • educating people about how to save money by using less water

  • working with groups such as bathroom manufacturers to see what makes people more likely to save water

We’re making it more attractive for businesses to invest in equipment and technology that saves water. We’re also working with water-saving experts such as the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to help businesses to use water efficiently.

Safe drinking water

Defra is responsible for the laws and regulations designed to make sure all drinking water in England is safe, secure, and potable (good to drink).

The Drinking Water Inspectorate is responsible for keeping water companies and other people that supply drinking water within the law.

Water resource management

Our management of water resources aims to make best use of the water available across the country.

Read more about how we manage water.


Our plans for future water management are set out in the white paper, Water for Life, published in 2011.