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Consumer Rights.

Updated: 4 Mar 2021

I’m having problems with my water, what should I do?

In this guide we share seven steps you can take to complain about water and sewerage problems.
Which?Editorial team

1 Identify the problem and act quickly

If the issue is located outside of your home in mains pipes supplying your household pipes, you will need to contact your water or wastewater supplier as soon as it arises. If the issue is located within your household, it will be the responsibility of the homeowner to fix.

Key Information

Common water and sewerage problems

Common problems include:

  • No water or low pressure
  • Blockages and drainage issues
  • Sewer flooding
  • Misconnected pipes
  • Billing problems
  • Water meter issues
  • Burst or leaking water pipe supplying your house

The more detail you are able to give your water or wastewater company, the better. Try to gather as much information as you can about your issue, but do not let an incomplete picture prevent you from contacting your water company about an urgent issue.

Helpful starting points could include the cause of the fault, the location of the fault (internal, external or both), when it started, and if any neighbours are also experiencing issues.

If you have a separate supplier of water and wastewater, make sure you know which one you need to call.

Key Information

When you are responsible

If you find a problem within the walls of your property, it will usually be the responsibility of the household owner to deal with it, and a trusted plumber will need to be called to fix the issue.

For example, drainage issues resulting from the household putting fats, oils, greases or wet wipes down the drain would likely mean the household is responsible for unblocking the pipes.

Similarly, a leaking pipe within the walls of your household will be the responsibility of the home owner.

If you are renting, your landlord should be notified as soon as possible so they can arrange with you to have a plumber visit.

2 Notify your water company

Include as much detail as you possibly can when you contact the water company to notify them of the fault you’ve found.

Most water and sewerage issues can be reported on the website of water companies, on social media, via email or by phone.  

In order to collect the best evidence for your correspondence, we recommend you email or write to your water company. Keep copies of all letters/emails you send and receive.

It’s a good idea to start a log of when you notify the water company, when they get back to you, what they propose to do to fix your problem and when they plan to carry out the work needed.

In the event the work is delayed, your problem doesn’t get fixed or the issue comes up again later on down the line, your log will provide you with a handy history of correspondence to refer to.

3 Complain to the water company

If you are dissatisfied with the response from your water or sewerage company, you should contact them again to see if the issue can be resolved directly and give details of your initial correspondence with them.

Remember to keep your log up to date with the time you called, what was agreed and the proposed action your water company plans to take.

Key Information

GSS automatic credit

In England and Wales, you are entitled to guaranteed minimum standards of service under the Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS). Where a company fails to meet a standard, it is required to make a specified payment to the customer affected.

This includes issues you may face around your water company making and keeping appointments. See a full list of occasions where you would be entitled to automatic credit under GSS here.

4 Follow the water company complaints procedure

If you are still unsuccessful in getting your issue resolved, you should follow your water and sewerage company’s complaints procedure. The contact details of your water company’s customer complaints resolution team should be on your bill and on the company website.

Sending a letter or email to the water company will be the best way to explain your problem and any actions taken so far. This is where a log of times and dates of previous correspondence and action taken will prove particularly useful. 

As the Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS) requires your water company to reply within 10 working days of receiving your written complaint, an email or letter could also be your quickest way to achieving a resolution.

If your water company fails to reply to your written correspondence within these 10 days, you are entitled to an automatic credit on your account under the GSS.

If you are not satisfied with the response you get from the company, you can ask them to review their decision at a higher stage of their complaints procedure as most water companies will have two complaints stages.

5 Contact the Consumer Council for Water

In the event that the matter is frustratingly still not resolved, you have the right to complain to the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater), which is independent from your water and sewerage company.

You can contact CCWater for free if you are dissatisfied with the service you have received, your water company has not answered your questions properly, your water company has failed to do something it should have or your water company has caused a problem with your water supply or sewerage service.

Before you contact CCWater for help, it’s worth bearing in mind that you will need to have gone through your water company’s complaints procedure.

You can register and submit an online complaint form on the CCWater website and you should get a response within five working days.

Alternatively, you can find the number of your local office and call CCWater.

CCWater should inform you of how they can take your matter forward and what resolution, if any, you can expect from your water company.

6 CCWater complaints procedure and WATRS

If you remain unhappy even after you’ve sought help from CCWater directly, you should go through CCWater’s complaints procedure.

If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of your complaint after going through its procedure, you can then apply for free to the Water Redress Scheme (WATRS) to make an independent and binding decision on your complaint.

You must have referred your complaint to CCWater before you can apply to WATRS and will need notification from CCWater before your complaint is eligible to be dealt with through WATRS.

WATRS is designed to help the customers who are still dissatisfied even after CCWater’s involvement.

WATRS will help with disputes relating to the following:

  • Bills, payments, collections and debt recovery
  • Metering
  • Water supply services
  • Wastewater/sewerage services
  • Development and new supplies

7 Contact Ofwat

Reaching out to Ofwat should be a last resort after you’ve already been through your company’s complaints procedure and to CCWater.

As Ofwat’s powers are set out in legislation, there are only limited issues in which Ofwat has a role.

Check its website for a full list of complaints and disputes Ofwat can help with.

If Ofwat can deal with your issue and you decide to contact it, you will need to provide Ofwat with detailed information about the nature of the problem at your property and what has been done so far to try and fix it.