Leading Edge Table
Version Description Date
1.0 Placed on the internet 01 February 2010
2.0 Updated in line with Severn 09 February 2010
Trent’s new Code of Practice
3.0 Updated following the 25 March 2010
introduction of a flooding line at
4.0 Review February 2011
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Leading Edge Table – Sewer Flooding
1. Summary 1
2. Introduction 2
3. Service provided 3
4. Service areas
a) Educating consumers on responsible waste disposal 3
b) Providing a priority flooding telephone line 4
c) Responding within four hours 4
d) Providing a named contact 5
e) Keeping the consumer informed 5
f) Consideration for uninsured losses
compensation above the Guaranteed
Standards Scheme level 5
5. Conclusion 6
6. Next Steps 6
1. CCWater’s annual tracking surveys – FDS consultancy reports carried out for
CCWater 2008 and 2009.
2. ‘Research into flushable products’ – MVA Consultancy report carried out for
CCWater (February 2008).
3. ‘Survey of customers affected by sewer flooding’ – Research by Design consultancy
2004 carried out for Ofwat
4. ‘Practical financial assistance guidelines’ – Ofwat (May 2008)
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We published the first version of the sewer flooding leading Edge table on
our website in February 2010. We used the Leading Edge Table to identify
areas of good service, based on consumer research within the water and
sewerage industry. This report is an update of progress and company
Companies are encouraged to include what services they offer to consumers
in their Code of Practice. We believe they should offer an equal level of
service to all consumers who have had the misfortune of being flooded from
a public sewer.
All sewerage companies provide a level of service in attending a property
flooded from a public sewer, and work to remedy the situation. CCWater is
pressing all companies to adopt good practice. Through consumer research
and previous consultation, CCWater has identified seven areas of service
provided by sewerage companies to consumers in the event of sewer
flooding. We have used these service areas to compare what companies are
offering in their Code of Practice.
If a company provides a service and includes it in their Code of Practice or
signposts it to supporting literature, they receive a star on the Leading Edge
Table (see Appendix 1). We have given a star for two of the service areas:
‘Educating consumers on responsible waste disposal’ and ‘Providing a
priority flooding telephone line’ if the company includes these services in
their leaflets, information and websites rather than just in their Code of
Practice. Both of these service areas should be advertised generally to
provide a quick reference point for consumers, for their information and in
the event of a sewer flooding incident. The company’s sewer flooding Code
of Practice or links to supporting literature is the reference point for the
remaining five service areas.
Ofwat allows funding to the water and sewerage companies to deal with
properties at risk from sewer flooding. Sometimes fixing the problem will
require minor work such as replacing a collapsed pipe. In some cases, fixing
the problem can take much longer if it affects a wide area or requires
greater capacity of the sewer system. For longer term work, all companies
use mitigating measures to minimise the impact of sewer flooding such as
non-return valves or floodgates, which can alleviate the situation, but not
fully resolve the flooding risk.
In the event of flooding from a public sewer, effective communication and
response times can help put the consumer at ease in what can be a very
traumatic experience. CCWater will press the sewerage companies to state
clearly what services they provide in their Code of Practice and bring them
in line with the ‘leading’ company.
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Consumers expect a reliable service from their water and sewerage
company. However, sewer flooding is one of the worst service failures a
consumer can experience from a water and sewerage company. It does not
affect many consumers, but the impact can be extremely distressing and in
some cases, a resolution can take a long time for the water and sewerage
company to complete, especially where it needs extensive capital works.
In the event of flooding from a public sewer, CCWater expects the
company’s Code of Practice to offer a quick response and a temporary
measure to reduce the risk or impact of flooding if a permanent solution is
not possible in the short term. All companies respond and provide
mitigating measures, but there are differing levels of service offered in their
Codes of Practice.
The purpose of the Leading Edge Table is to encourage companies to offer a
similar level of good service and inform consumers of this service through
their Code of Practice and other means where applicable.
Through consumer research undertaken by CCWater and other organisations,
and the complaints we have received about sewerage companies, CCWater
identified seven key service areas for the prevention and dealing with sewer
flooding. We have made comparisons to see how well the water and
sewerage companies perform. The service areas are:
Educating consumers on responsible waste disposal.
Providing a priority flooding telephone line.
Responding within four hours of internal flooding.
Providing a named company contact.
Keeping the consumer informed.
Consideration for uninsured losses.
Providing compensation above the Guaranteed Standard Scheme.
We have compared each company’s sewer flooding Code of Practice -
available to all consumers in leaflets and on company websites. Where a
company offers a service in line with the relevant key area, we have
awarded a star on the Leading Edge Table (Appendix 1). In the event of
extreme weather, we would expect companies to try to provide the levels
of service in their Code of Practice, but we accept this may not be
practical. This is in line with Ofwat’s ‘Guidance note for the practical
application of weather – related payments in the GSS regulations.’
The criteria we have used for the key service areas are from the following
i) Consumer Council for Water’s annual tracking surveys – FDS
consultancy reports carried out for Consumer Council for Water 2008
ii) ‘Research into flushable products’ – MVA Consultancy report
carried out for Consumer Council for Water (February 2008).
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iii) ‘Survey of customers affected by sewer flooding’ – Research by
Design consulting 2004 carried out for Ofwat.
iv) ‘Practical assistance guidelines – dealing with customers who have
been affected by sewer flooding’ – Ofwat, (May 2008)
3. Service Provided
Around 5% of complaints CCWater received in 2009-10 against water and
sewerage companies related to sewer flooding, delays in cleaning up or
providing a remedy. In the report ‘Complaint handling in England and Wales
2009-10’, we identified that 8.1% of written complaints to companies were
about sewerage service. The severity of the sewer flooding problem and
length of time it can take to resolve it leads to a high number of CCWater
investigations (95 in 2009-10).
The Leading Edge Table shows how each company deals with and resolves
sewer flooding, according to the company’s Code of Practice.
For a water and sewerage company to receive a star on the Leading Edge
Table there has to be evidence of a reference point in their Code of
Practice, or a signpost to their supporting literature / website, except for
the priority phone line and educating consumers on responsible waste
disposal. Inclusion of the services it provides in the Code of Practice helps
consumers challenge a company if it does not adhere to its policy. In
addition, the published information provides company staff dealing with the
service failure with a source of information on company policy.
4. Service Areas
a) Educating consumers on responsible waste disposal
Blockages from inappropriate items flushed down toilets or put down sinks
cause many sewer-flooding incidents. It is crucial that companies work to
minimise blockages by raising awareness of what is not suitable to be
disposed of in the sewer system. One of the most common problems is fat
that solidifies when it cools down after entering the sewer system and
causes a blockage.
Water and sewerage companies have run campaigns to inform consumers
what should not be put into the sewer system such as: ‘Bag it and bin it’ and
providing seasonal information such as advice not to pour turkey fat down
the sink at Christmas. In most cases, blockages caused by unsuitable waste
disposal are beyond the water and sewerage companies’ control and they
are only aware after the public sewer is blocked.
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CCWater’s ‘Annual Tracking Surveys1’ and ‘Flushable products2’ research
showed that many consumers were unaware of what should not enter the
sewer system. Two of the recommendations of the flushable products
research on changing consumer behaviour were:
Greater public awareness of the risk of sewer blockage;
Better education of the public in terms of what cannot be flushed
All companies have information on their website and leaflets on what not to
put down a sink or toilet. Many sewerage companies have identified fat
disposal as a significant problem, targeting food outlets to install fat traps.
Companies have also advised household customers to scrape fat into a bin
thoroughly before washing pans and dishes.
All companies have shown evidence of educating consumers on responsible
disposal and have received a star on the Leading Edge table. We encourage
companies to continue to communicate with consumers as much as possible,
whether it is through consumer leaflets, the website or promotional
campaigns. CCWater has also promoted responsible disposal through press
notices and on our website. We will continue to monitor company
communication on this subject on a regular basis.
b) Providing a priority flooding telephone line
All companies have telephone lines for consumers to raise operational
problems, but only Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water, Northumbrian Water, Wessex
Water and Severn Trent Water have a priority line for flooding.
Research carried out for Ofwat3 in 2004 placed a high importance on
communication between the company and consumers. A priority telephone
line for consumers who have experienced sewer flooding was also
recommended in Ofwat’s ‘Practical assistance guidelines’4. This reduces
the chance of customers needing to speak to various departments within the
company and gives the company the option to use staff with more expertise
in dealing with flooding to provide the best advice.
c) Responding within four hours
We expect a company to give customers a timescale when it will attend a
flooding incident. This is not always possible in extreme weather, even for
properties internally flooded. Most companies offer a response time of four
hours or less. Ideally, the response should be a visit rather than a telephone
Nine companies offer a response within four hours. Ofwat’s guidelines4
state: ‘customers should expect their sewerage company to visit promptly
when a sewer flooding incident occurs.’ In Ofwat’s research3, 32% of
respondents gave favourable comments about the time it took a company to
attend a sewer flooding incident. 20% of those surveyed felt they should
have had a quicker response.
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d) Providing a named contact
It is important that companies communicate well with consumers. After a
sewer flooding incident, companies should offer affected customers a
named contact. A named company contact can be a useful point of
reference to the consumer and give advice with detailed knowledge of the
incident and the proposed resolution.
In many situations, a resolution may take time, especially if the problem
requires longer-term works. Companies can reduce or prevent complaints
by providing a contact point and keeping the consumer well informed of
Only four companies offer this service from their Code of Practice. We will
press more companies to adopt this service in the future.
e) Keeping the consumer informed
Regular contacts from the company throughout the process, from the first
visit to subsequent investigations, and eventual works, reduce the need for
the consumer to have to keep chasing the company for updates. A set
timescale of communication to the consumer should be included in the Code
of Practice in order to receive a star on the Leading Edge Table.
In Ofwat’s 2004 research3, 16% of consumers said there should have been
better feedback from the company. Some companies communicate
effectively with customers in accordance with their published literature.
This service also ties in with Ofwat’s ‘Practical financial assistance
guidelines4’ - section four.
f) Consideration for uninsured losses
Companies are not legally required to cover uninsured losses in the event of
an internal sewer flooding incident. It is not advisable for consumers to
depend on discretionary assistance from the water and sewerage company
in the event of a sewer flooding incident but if there is evidence of
vulnerability then we feel the company should consider assisting the
consumer with losses incurred. Most companies state in their Code of
Practice that they will consider a consumer’s uninsured losses from sewer
flooding if there is a genuine case of vulnerability. However, consumers
should have adequate buildings and contents insurance.
g) Providing compensation above the GSS level
Under the revised GSS payments, sewerage companies must make an
automatic payment of a sum equal to the customer’s annual sewerage
charge up to a maximum of £1,000 for each incident or £150 if the amount
the company is required to pay is less than £150 (with the exception of
blockages or severe weather). For external flooding of a property, with the
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same exceptions, there is a minimum payment of £75 or half the customer’s
annual sewerage charge.
In Ofwat’s 2004 research 3, 54% of customers affected by sewer flooding felt
they were not compensated enough. The revised GSS payments did increase
the level of payments and go some way to addressing this issue. While
there is no legal requirement for companies to offer anything above the
GSS, CCWater supports companies who choose to offer increased payments.
We have awarded a star when a company Code of Practice goes beyond the
GSS either through an additional payment or if the company goes beyond
the GSS limits. An additional or higher payment, even a small amount, does
go some way to assisting with the hidden costs not covered by insurance.
CCWater also supports companies who offer payments to customers who
have been flooded in extreme weather.
We are pleased nearly one year on since the Leading edge table was
published, that there have been additional stars given to companies (shown
in red), based on company Codes of Practice. There are differences in the
service consumers can expect in the event of a sewer flooding incident and
we will continue to press the companies to offer the same good service by:
Clarifying in their literature exactly what consumers can expect in
the event of a sewer flooding incident;
Follow the example of companies who offer the best service;
Consider what services they provide in dealing with sewer flooding
incidents and where there is a shortfall improve.
6. Next Steps
We will continue to monitor progress and update the table to identify
improvements and consumer priorities from further research. We will also
create a new table on another area of consumer service which will include
both the water only and water and sewerage companies.
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