What to do in an emergency

Follow our step-by-step guide to cope with water and wastewater emergencies.

During a major incident (such as a burst water main and loss of water), our contact centre may be very busy with calls, so we'll:

  • add a recorded message to our phone lines with up-to-date information and advice on the appropriate action to take
  • post information on our incident map
  • post updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages
  • work with the media to broadcast bulletins on the radio and television

Please follow any updates and advice carefully – we'll respond to the emergency as quickly as possible.


Issues at your home

For help and advice on emergencies in and around your property, expand the sections below.

Find an approved plumber

If your pipes freeze

Ice expands – so if the water inside a pipe at your home freezes, it could lead to a burst pipe.

Follow these steps to assess and thaw a frozen pipe:

  • Turn off the water supply at the stop tap straight away
  • Keep your boiler or immersion heater switched off
  • Check to see if the pipe has burst (if it has, follow the advice on this page for 'If a pipe bursts')
  • Open the nearest tap. Starting at the end closest to the tap, gently heat frozen sections of pipe with a hot cloth, hot water bottles or a towel soaked in hot water
  • Never use a naked flame, hair-dryer or blowtorch to thaw the pipe – it's dangerous and can cause more damage
  • Don’t leave taps dripping or running as the water may not drain down the plughole if the pipe below is frozen

More help and advice


How to stop your pipes freezing and bursting

Find an approved plumber

No tap water

If there is little or no water running from your tap then there may have been a burst water main in your area. Turn off the taps and contact us on 0330 303 0368 and a customer services adviser will give you more information.

If we are carrying out work on our network which would interrupt your water supply for more than four hours, we will let you know at least 48 hours in advance, usually by letter or card.

Customers with additional needs, such as kidney patients on home dialysis, can join our confidential register for priority supplies in the event of an interruption to water supplies.

Taste and smell of water

There are a number of reasons why your water supply might have a different taste or smell. There are simple explanations and no cause for alarm and the reasons are detailed on our water quality page.

If you're concerned about the taste or smell of your water supply, a Water Quality Adviser will call you back within 24 hours to discuss the issue further. If you think your water supply is making you ill, we strongly recommend you speak to your doctor to determine what is causing the issue.

For more information, contact our call centre on 0330 303 0368 (calls charged at local rate).

Dealing with flooding

If your home or property has flooded take the following action as soon as possible:

  • Isolate all electrical circuits by turning off the supply at the circuit board or fuse box
  • Contact your insurance company to report the damage and make a claim (Take photographs and keep receipts of emergency expenses).

Leaks outside your home

Leaks on water mains can be slow and gradual or erupt very quickly with visible water flooding.

If the water leak is in your garden then there's probably a fault on your supply pipe – which you're responsible for.

Where possible, immediately turn the water off at your stop tap. If this isn't possible, we'll arrange for someone to attend as a priority.

We offer up to one hour’s free detection work to help locate the leak on your private supply pipe.

For more information read our Code of Practice on water leaks, which details our responsibilities for the ownership of supply pipes and eligibility for repair.

Contact our customer call centre on 0330 303 0368 (calls charged at local rate) and we will arrange for someone to visit your home.

If there is a water leak outside the boundary of your property, for example on the road or footpath, we will repair it as quickly as possible and restore water supplies.

Please use our online form to report a leak.

Leaks inside your home

If the leak is inside your home or you have a burst pipe, you should again turn off the stop tap and contact a plumber as soon as possible (It is advisable to keep a number to hand). If any damage has occurred it is also advisable to contact your insurance company.

Do not touch any wet electrical fittings – call an electrician.

Blocked drains and wastewater flooding

If you have a blocked drain and/or wastewater flooding the action will depend on whether it is caused by a problem with the public sewers or a problem on your private household system.

If you suspect you have a blocked drain then, if possible, check to see if the nearest manhole is blocked or contact your neighbour to see if they have the same problem.

If they have or if the manhole is blocked, call us immediately on 0330 303 0368 (calls charged at local rate). The age of your property would be useful information for us.

If it is a problem with the private drains or sewers serving your property, you will need to contact a private drainage contractor. If in doubt, call us and our specialist advisors will be able to give you advice on what to do.

In all cases:

  • Wash and treat footwear with a mild disinfectant
  • Keep children and pets out of the contaminated area
  • Wear rubber gloves when clearing up and look out for sharp objects
  • Always wash your hands
  • In the unlikely event of feeling unwell, contact your GP
  • Call an electrician to check flooded circuits or equipment.

If the flooding is caused by a problem on our sewerage network, we will

  • Carry out an initial external clean-up where possible within 12 hours for internal flooding and 24 hours for external flooding
  • This includes removing excess liquid, cleaning debris, applying household disinfectant – this will remove all traces of bacteria within 24 to 48 hours
  • Clear gardens of water and debris. (Bacteria are best killed by natural exposure to the sunlight’s ultra violet radiation)
  • Clean and disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and drives.

Many blocked drains and flooding are caused by blockages. Most wastewater pipes are only 100mm (four inches) in diameter and are not designed to carry anything other than wastewater and bio-degradable products like toilet paper.

You can help avoid wastewater flooding by not putting unsuitable items in toilets and drains. Our Bag it and Bin It page provides more details.

Avoiding frozen pipes

  • Insulate water tanks and lag pipes (lagging material is available from all good DIY stores). Make sure there are no gaps at bends, valves or fittings
  • Pay special attention to water tanks and pipes in unheated areas like loft spaces and garages, and check insulation in any property likely to be unoccupied for long periods
  • Fix leaks and dripping taps – even a small trickle can result in a frozen pipe. New meters being installed by us across our region are the most advanced in the water industry and include a ‘leak alarm’ to help find leaks more easily on household supply pipes. These leaks are the responsibility of the householder but to help everyone save water, we will fix up to three external leaks free of charge
  • Find your property’s internal stop tap and make sure you can turn it off if necessary. Most stop taps are fitted under the kitchen sink and close by turning clockwise
  • Check your boiler has been serviced
  • Minimise draughts from outside and close doors and windows to unheated parts of the property
  • Leave the heating on low when you are away and get a friend or neighbour to check the property regularly
  • If a property (such as an office or school) is going to be unoccupied for long periods, turn off the water at the stop tap and consider draining down the system so there is no water left in the pipes
  • Keep a separate supply of drinking water in the house for emergencies.

If a pipe bursts

  • Turn off the stop tap and boiler
  • Open all taps to drain the system quickly
  • Soak up/block off escaping water with thick towels
  • Trusted plumbers can be found through the WaterSafe site. See find an approved plumber for more information.
  • If water has leaked near your electrics or into any electrical appliances, switch them off at the mains
  • Turn off taps once pipework is repaired to avoid further flooding
  • If you have your own plumber, make a note of their name and number on our leaflet so you have it handy in an emergency.

Insurance claims

We will help with clean-up operations after flooding caused by our operations, unless insurance companies have agreed to make arrangements:

  • Contact your household insurance company immediately
  • We have no strict liability for sewage flooding events that are beyond our control
  • Claims for loss or damage must be directed to your own insurers who will provide advice on what action to take to ensure the terms and conditions of your policy are met.
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