Scottish Water sewer response teams hit the streets and leave their mark

05 July 2024
Scottish Water’s sewer response teams – who clear about 36,000 blockages per year across the country – are adopting a bold new tactic to urge customers to “bin the wipes” that cause them.

To highlight the scale and nature of the problem caused by people wrongly flushing wipes down toilets, the company’s fleet of sewer response teams will be equipped with new signage about their work which they will display before leaving a street stencil on the pavement saying “Another blockage cleared. Flushing wipes blocks pipes. Bin the wipes.” 

Scottish Water clears about 100 blockages per day and wipes are found in 80% of them. It costs about £216 to clear an individual blockage and about £23,000 per day to attend to them across Scotland. 

The utility calls on people to dispose of wipes in the bin, along with other bathroom items such as period products and cotton buds and to flush only the 3Ps down toilets – pee, poo and (toilet) paper.
Scottish Water street signage informing that there has been a sewer blockage

Street signage to be displayed when sewer response teams are actively clearing a blockage

Bin the Wipes street stencil

Street stencil to be placed on pavements after a blockage has been cleared

“To some, the street stencils may be regarded as graffiti, but they are temporary and convey a very important message. The real damage is happening below the surface and it is this which we are highlighting with the stencils.

We will use them whenever our Sewer Response teams clear a blockage, and in the towns that our Community Engagement teams attend because they have a high number of sewer blockages for their population size.

Garry Kirkwood
Sewer Response Customer Manager, Scottish Water
The new signage and street stencils, which are part of Scottish Water’s ongoing Nature Calls campaign designed to encourage people to help prevent blockages which can cause flooding of properties and pollution, will be used across the country at every blockage the company attends to encourage people to follow its advice and bin the wipes.

This will include towns which are hotspot areas for blockages.

The company has already visited Peebles, Galashiels and Hawick and is planning to do likewise in Fort William, Thurso, Wick and Alness in September and Dingwall, Buckie, Cumnock and Annan in October.

These visits involve Scottish Water’s community engagement teams also laying down street stencils and displaying posters, and hosting a stall in a local supermarket where the community can discuss the issue of blocked sewer pipes and how we can all change our behaviour to prevent them. 

The company also gives away free products to aid behaviour change including reusable wipes, small bathroom bins and gunk pots for kitchen use to dispose of fats, oil and grease.
Pile of wipes removed from sewer system

Wipes pulled from a sewer blockage in Dundee

A collection of wipes pulled from a sewer in Dundee, highlighting the importance of only flushing the 3Ps - pee, poo, and (toilet) paper