What are Surface Water Drainage charges for?
The cost of removing rainwater from your business premises and conveying it into the public sewer (or a watercourse designated as a public sewer for rainwater).
Why can’t I see a line on the invoice from my water services provider for Surface Water Drainage?
Generally speaking in the middle and North of the country, SWD is invoiced separately, either on the basis of a Rateable Value, or increasingly more common, in proportion to the surface area of your plot. However in the South and East of the country SWD charges are either included in the standing charge or often incorporated into the wastewater disposal charges which are volumetric i.e. linked to the amount of fresh water metered into the premises.
Why the difference?
Ofwat has stated that they consider the fairest way of charging for SWD is in proportion to measured surface area and which in practice is implemented through the mechanism of charging bands each relating to a range of surface area measurements. However not all wastewater providers have chosen to charge this way, and Ofwat has no powers to impose it.
Do I have to pay these charges?
As a business customer, yes you do provided the rainwater from your site enters the public sewer which is owned by the water/sewerage supplier. There are some properties where this is not the case, and charges for SWD are thus not justified, and can be contested. A detailed drainage surveyors report is often required for this purpose and it would be worth getting an informed opinion as to the likelihood of recouping the costs of such a report in the event that you believe that your rainwater goes elsewhere.
Can Surface Water Drainage costs be reduced?
Yes there are a number of possible submissions to the wastewater supplier to reduce SWD charges, and the possibilities vary depending on which supplier you are with i.e. where in the country you are. In all cases the onus is on the customer to prepare a case as Ofwat has accepted that sewerage providers cannot in all circumstances know the detailed route of SWD removal from customer sites. This takes time and effort and must be done in accordance with the process set out by your particular supplier.
If Surface Water Drainage forms the prevalent part of your overall business water services bill (which for large sites in some parts of the country is entirely possible) then looking at options to reduce the cost is an attractive venture. However any appeal for surface water drainage reduction needs to be professionally assessed and presented as if there is any inadvertent omission, ambiguity or misinterpretation by the customer then appeals can potentially be reversed and backdated unfavourably.