Irish Water are refusing to unblock my drain. What can I do?

Property Clinic: The Water Services Acts set out responsibility for water and wastewater maintenance

I read with interest your reply to a recent query about blocked drains. I have lived with a blocked drain problem for 40 years, with a blockage occurring once or twice a year. The blockages are occurring under the footpath on the public road outside my property. Having gotten tired of personally unblocking the drains by the use of sewage rods, I contacted Irish Water requesting a resolution to the problem. The representative of Irish Water stated that although the blockage was on a public footpath it was not their responsibility as the blockage was on a subsidiary pipe connected to the main drain which runs down the middle of the main road. The representative of Irish Water said they are only responsible for blockages on the main drain/main road. Can you please clarify the legal responsibilities in this case.

Patrick Shine writes: The problem you describe may be due to damage to the drainpipe itself, or to differential settlement adversely affecting the gradient of the pipe under the footpath. Either is likely to limit the ability of the flow to discharge fully into the main pipe on the road and would therefore result in a gradual build up of waste leading eventually to the blockages you describe. The blockages may also be due to settlement and/or fracture of the pipe caused by compression due to heavy vehicular traffic.

The Water Services Acts 2007-2017 set out the legal responsibility of Irish Water for the maintenance of water and wastewater networks. This responsibility does not extend to the entire extent of water connections to private residences or to drains from private residences to main wastewater pipes, which are generally located in public roads or public open spaces.

In its “Pipe Maintenance Responsibility” advice, Irish Water clarifies the extent of its responsibility and outlines its general policy in relation to maintenance of water connections and wastewater pipes. Irish Water’s general policy states that it is responsible for the main pipe in the public road. Property owners are responsible for the full length of the drains serving their properties, including the portion of these drains under the public road, (which includes footpaths), between their property boundaries and the joint at which it connects to the main pipe.


For clarification, in relation to water supply only, Irish Water is responsible for the portion of the water supply between the watermain in the public road and the boundary of the respective properties if the connection is serving more than one property.

As yours is a wastewater issue, you are responsible for the drain serving your house including the portion of the drain between your boundary and the main pipe in the road.

Your best approach is to engage a contractor to carry out a CCTV camera survey of the drainpipe. The CCTV survey will reveal the condition of the length of your drainpipe up to the point where it joins the main pipe.

It is also possible that a blockage in your drain under the footpath is a backup of waste caused by a fault at the joint at the main pipe. If the survey indicates such a fault, you should forward this information to Irish Water in order that responsibility for repairs can be determined. Irish Water will repair the pipe if it deems the fault to be within its responsibility as set out in its general policy. This policy includes a provision that it will review each scenario on an individual basis.

If the cause of the blockage is deemed to be your responsibility, it is then a matter for you to engage a contractor to carry out remedial work on the pipe. It is necessary that the contractor has experience in road opening works and is familiar with the requirements and procedures involved in the MapRoad Licensing system for road openings.

Patrick Shine is a chartered geomatics surveyor, a chartered civil engineer, and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland,