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Septic tanks and private sewage treatment systems

What is a private sewage system?

It deals with waste water not served by the mains sewer. For example, a septic tank.

It should not affect the environment if you look after it.

But if you do not look after it, it can affect:

  • human health
  • drinking water
  • protected areas

We have a simple information tool that explains everything you'll need to know. To access it you can sign up with Netregs. Once there go to your "Workspace" and search for "Septic Tanks".

If you have a private sewage system you need to register it with us.

You’ll need proof of registration for new builds or as part of a sale.

You must ask us to check if you're already registered if you’re unsure.

We don’t give refunds if you apply and you’re already registered.

Register a private sewage system

You can apply online if the system:

  • has been in use for 2 years or more; and
  • serves 9 properties or less.

The online service is the quick and easy but you could instead download the "Registration - Existing sewage discharge" (paper) form.

If your system is less than two years old you must download the "Registration - New discharge" (paper) form to register a new discharge.

For a treatment systems that serves more than 9 properties, you'll need to apply for a licence using Form A and Form B.

You can contact us to talk about your options before you apply.

Meeting the conditions of registration

If your application is successful we’ll confirm your registration.

You must meet the conditions of registration, which includes regular maintenance. Information on maintenance of septic tanks is available in the Septic Tank Guide. The British Water Guide for Users of Packaged Wastewater Treatment Plants is available on the British Water website along with other useful guidance documents. 

In England septic tanks need to be upgraded by 2020. This does not apply in Scotland.

Read the full Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011

Read the amendments to the regulations

Or read our summary of the regulations

Restarting private sewage treatment systems following shutdown

British Water have produced guidance for restarting package sewage treatment plants and a list of suitable maintenance engineers can be found on their website.

COVID-19 will have resulted in a period of low or no flow of sewage effulent to a number of private sewage treatment plants. Restarting the plant could cause pollution due to the biological processes not yet working properly to treat the effulent. If you are unsure of how to proceed, then tou are advised to seek technical advice on restarting.

Get further help

Contact us if you need any further help or advice at any stage of your registration.