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More than 40,000 sewer blockages cost Scottish Water £7million last year

17 February 2014

Winnie the Pooh in East Kilbride sewer

Winnie the Pooh in East Kilbride sewer

More than 40,000 blockages in Scotland’s drains and sewer network last year were attended by Scottish Water, and new figures show that approximately 80% are caused by people putting the wrong things down their sinks and toilets.

Scottish Water is urging customers throughout Scotland to help prevent blocked drains and sewers with the launch of the second phase of the biggest-ever awareness campaign to highlight the impact of what some people wrongly put down their toilets and sinks.

On 17th February (today), a series of television and radio advertisements - backed by regional campaigns in Dumfries and Stirling - will highlight easy ways householders can play a part in keeping the water cycle running by disposing of kitchen and bathroom waste responsibly or by saving water.

Cooking fat, oils and grease coupled with bathroom waste such as cotton buds, nappies and baby wipes creates a perfect storm of solidified fat and material that can’t breaks down easily like toilet paper and collects in large clumps beneath Scotland’s streets. These blockages create costs of over £7million a year for the publicly owned utility firm.

This leads to the misery of flooding of thousands of properties across Scotland, leaving householders and communities with the hassle and expense of repairing damaged property and sometimes resulting in pollution to local rivers and burns.

Chris Wallace, Director of Communications, Scottish Water, said: “The waste water drain which runs from your house to the public sewer is usually only about four inches wide, which is less than the diameter of a DVD.

“This drain is designed to take only the used water from sinks, showers and baths and pee, poo and toilet paper from the toilet. Scottish Water believes the best way to tackle blocked drains and sewer flooding is to work with our customers to prevent blockages that can clog up the cycle in the first place.

“We are also running a new TV advert which will encourage everyone to turn off the tap while they are brushing their teeth. This water comes straight out of the tap and goes down the plughole and running a tap can use between two and 26 litres of water per minute.

 “Although Scotland has plentiful resources of raw water, the treatment and distribution of water is very energy intensive and the heating of water counts for a sizeable share of energy use. Research by the Department for Energy and Climate Change shows that 18% of domestic energy is used for heating water. By using less water you can save money - and with high energy prices it makes good sense for Scots to use water wisely.”

Scottish Water’s advertisements will be broadcast on STV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and on 14 radio stations across Scotland. These are being supported by regional press campaigns, leaflets, school visits and outdoor advertising in the Stirling and Dumfries. The campaign will run for seven weeks.

Iain Gulland, Director, Zero Waste Scotland said:

“I welcome the launch of this new initiative by Scottish Water to raise awareness of how to keep the sewer system clear of waste. Where food waste is concerned, it's important it is that consumers understand how to dispose of it properly. Food waste that cannot be used or avoided is easily recycled or composted. Over half of households across the country now have access to food recycling services and we are continuing to roll these out in towns and cities nationwide.

“Waste is a resource and there are significant environmental and economic benefits for Scotland if we work together to manage it more efficiently."

Scottish Water is also supporting Climate Week which runs from 3rd - 9th of March. Mark Williams, Environmental Regulation and Climate Change Manager, Scottish Water, said: “Scottish Water has agreed to be a supporting partner of Climate Week - which aims to spotlight activities taking place across communities and businesses in the UK to protect our future and create a secure planet. By generating green energy and managing water supply catchments more sustainably, we are reducing demand for energy intensive treatment processes. We have achieved a 10% reduction in carbon emissions over the last five years.”

Scottish Water recently reduced the amount of water leakage across the country to the industry measure of the Economic Level of Leakage (ELL) where it costs more to fix leaks than the water lost. In the last year alone Scottish Water reduced the amount of water lost by 53million litres.

To see Scottish Water’s campaign TV adverts, visit Scottish Water’s YouTube channel at 

Customers can learn more about what they can do to keep the cycle running, what should not be flushed down toilets or poured down sinks and how they can save their drains, protect their homes, their neighbours’ homes and the local environment at