Home maintenance

Maintaining your home isn’t just about painting and lawn mowing.

You also need to maintain the water, wastewater (sewer) and stormwater pipes that connect to your property.

As well as knowing exactly what your responsibilities are, you need to know how to keep these essential services running well.

Which pipes are you responsible for?

The property owner usually owns the water pipes from the point where they connect to our water main. The water main usually runs under and parallel to your street frontage.

We'll fix:

  • any pipe leaks from the connection to our water main up to one metre inside your property boundary
  • the water meter to ensure it's accurate (or replace it)
  • any leaks from the water meter or its isolating tap.

What are your water pipes made of?

Water pipes are usually made from copper.

Older pipes may be made from galvanised iron, while some new developments use specially designed plastic pipes.

Older galvanised iron pipes are dull silver in colour. Most have now reached the end of their useful life and they typically rust from the inside out.

Your pipes are rusting if:

  • you notice rust flakes when you fill a glass with water
  • an orange stain appears at the back of your toilet bowl (where the flushing water runs).

How can your plumbing affect water quality?

Sydney's drinking water is safe and meets the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. However, plumbing products can contribute to increased levels of metals such as cooper, lead and nickel.

Lead-based solder use is banned, but some products such as brass fittings can still contain lead.

To keep your water fresh:

  • use water from cold taps only for drinking and cooking
  • flush cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for about 30 seconds first thing in the morning
  • flush cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for about 2-3 minutes after periods of non-use, such as returning from holidays. You can collect this 'flushed' water and use it to wash up
  • choose plumbing products that have been certified to WaterMark and AS/NZS 4020:2018 when renovating and building, and/or products with little or no lead content.

There is no need to have your water tested for lead. If you follow these good practice measures, you can reduce your potential exposure to metals in plumbing. 

How do you know if your pipes need to be replaced?

Leaks are the most important sign that your galvanised iron pipes need replacing. As they age, these pipes become thin and vulnerable to leaks.

The cost of fixing these leaks usually prompts owners to replace their pipes with modern materials. Always use a licensed plumber to repair or replace your water pipes and always ask for a certificate of compliance before you pay for major plumbing work. 

Do you need to 'Dial before you dig'?
Unless you’re digging more than 300 mm (about the depth of a shovel blade) below the surface, you won’t normally come across your water pipes.

If you're doing major landscaping, always check carefully for buried water, gas or electricity services.

Find out more about Dial Before you Dig enquiries.

The property owner owns the wastewater pipes upstream from the point of connection to our wastewater main.

The connection point may not be near your property’s boundary as the main is often located where it can also connect to nearby properties, including across the street or other public access areas that adjoin your property.

What are your wastewater pipes made of?

Wastewater pipes are made from a range of materials. Specially-designed plastic pipes are the most common in modern buildings.

In homes built before the early 1980s, it's common to find terracotta or clay pipes. These pipes are very durable. However, the materials are brittle and its becoming more common to find cracks near the joints in these pipes. It's via these cracks and loose joints that tree roots may find their way into your pipes.

Why do tree roots affect wastewater pipes?

Tree roots can take advantage of weak wastewater pipes. The roots are drawn to the wastewater flowing in the pipes, particularly during drought. They enter the pipes through openings in joints or cracks and grow quickly. Within months, you'll notice problems with your pipes as the small roots grow fatter and increase in length and number.

Unless removed, the roots will eventually block the pipe causing wastewater to flow out of openings upstream – possibly inside your home.

Major tree root blockages in privately-owned pipes are an ongoing problem in Sydney. Disputes can arise:

  • if the offending trees are on another property
  • about the extent of the damage.

How can you fix blocked pipes?

Plumbers can view inside your pipes using closed circuit TV (CCTV). This helps them accurately locate any damage from roots. Depending on the extent and impact of any damage, you can choose from a number of options such as:

  • high-pressure water jetting to temporarily clear the roots
  • relining the damaged section of pipe
  • digging up and replacing damaged pipes with modern materials.


How do you choose the best option?

A licensed plumber specialising in this type of work is usually best placed to advise which option is best for you. You're likely to have to choose between regular, ongoing maintenance such as jetting or more permanent repairs.

Jetting has lower regular costs, but will only last a couple of years.

'Dig and repair' has a higher up front cost, but the new pipe, with modern materials and glued joints, will last for decades.

Pipe lining is a new technology that enables existing pipes to be relined with a joint-free epoxy pipe. This technique means there's little or no disturbance to the landscape above.

Regardless of which option you choose, plumbers who invest in quality CCTV equipment can show you clearly the extent of your problem. This can help you decide on the best course of action. Without CCTV images of the fault, no one knows how bad it is and how best to resolve it.

Most homes in greater Sydney are connected to street gutters and stormwater pipes owned by the local council.

We own some stormwater mains and canals. Look at the stormwater catchment map to find out if you're in an area we manage.

On your property, you must maintain the stormwater pipes between the street gutter and your roof gutters.

Rainwater tanks help you store at least some rainwater for later use. However, they only provide a stormwater benefit if your household is using the water. An empty rainwater tank provides the best stormwater benefit. It also means you've used all the rainwater before the tank is potentially refilled by rain.

Some properties in sensitive areas must temporarily store stormwater in detention tanks for slow release. This reduces the impact of local flooding and erosion.


Diagram showing a water meter, meter tap and pipework.

We're responsible for the water main and the water meter. Property owners are responsible for the other pipes.