Every day, 1.87 million Melburnians flush or drain 2.4 billion litres of wastewater that goes to our water recycling plants for treatment.

But when the wrong things enter the sewerage system, blockages can happen.

Blocked pipes can be nasty, stopping waste from leaving your property.

You may have a blockage if:

  • Your toilet isn’t flushing properly.

  • Your sink or bath empties really slowly.

  • You notice a bad smell coming from your drains.

  • Sewage is spilling outside or inside your property.

What to do if the blockage is in my home

It’s your responsibility to unblock it. If you’re the owner, you’ll need to contact a licensed plumber to fix the blockage. If you’re a renter, contact your rental provider or agent as soon as you can.

What if I don’t know where the blockage is coming from?

If it’s not clear if the blockage is on your property or in our sewer,  you’ll need to engage a licensed plumber to determine where the blockage is. If the blockage is on our side, we’ll pay for its repair. 

If the blockage is in your pipes, you’ll need to engage and pay for a licensed plumber to fix it. Your plumber can use the SEWmap app to identify current water and sewer locations.

You can also choose to use South East Water Priority Plumbing. The advantage is if they discover the blockage is in a section of our pipe you won’t need to pay anything for clearing it.

Whoever you choose, it’s important that your plumber follows our best practice to determine the location of the blockage.

It’s best practice to insert the sewer cables into the property’s access point (Boundary Trap) and rod to South East Water’s point. You can determine the point by the length of the rods/cables you insert into the access point. If the property connection is still blocked at this point, give our Faults and Emergencies team a call on 13 18 12.

If you find the blockage in our pipes, then report this to us. As only South East Water and our approved contractors are allowed to carry out repairs on our assets and pipes, you shouldn’t perform any work on a blockage that’s our responsibility. 

From 1 October 2022, we’re no longer providing spotter’s fee payments. This change affects plumbers who work in our service area of Melbourne’s south-east. 

We first introduced this payment to plumbers when they found an issue in our sewer network and reported it to us. Today, we reimburse our customers for expenses incurred from issues in our network. 

If you’re a plumber, you can still claim our spotter’s fee for blockages you’ve reported before 1 October 2022. You can do this by completing the plumbing reimbursement form below. 

We must receive any outstanding plumber spotter’s fee invoices by no later than 31 October 2022. If we receive any invoices after this date, they won’t be processed. 

Can I get money back?

The short answer is yes. If your plumber has charged you for costs relating to finding the location of the blockage, you can make a claim for us to reimburse you.

We’ll check the details and reimburse fair and reasonable costs via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). We’ll need all the information at hand, as well as confirmation that the blockage is in our pipes. But that’s ok, we’ll call or email you to get additional information if we need it.

Unfortunately, there are some things we can’t pay for
  • Clearing your own pipes.

  • Digs to find your inspection point or boundary trap. 

If you’re the property owner, you’ll also need to pay for the cost of works where: 

  • The plumber didn’t refer the blockage to us.

  • All work carried out by the plumber relates to clearance and/or work on your pipes.

  • CCTV was used to determine a blockage location.

  • Costs include the use of general accessories (machine hire, for example).

  • A high-pressure water jet cleaner was used.

  • Tree roots were cleared, or chemicals added to dissolve the blockage.

Need to make a plumbing claim?

It’s easy, just:

The root cause

Tree roots can often be the cause of sewer blockages. If you have a history of tree roots causing blockages at your property, contact us when you have a blockage. Also, consider having the tree moved to a new home.

How to prevent blockages

When wastewater is unable to flow away it can come back up from the toilet or sink, giving you a nasty surprise. It's easy to keep our sewers flowing free, just remember to bin anything that's not water, human waste or toilet paper, including:

  • Fats, oils and leftover food that can solidify and clog pipes.

  • Cleaning cloths, sanitary items, cotton buds and all types of wipes – even the ones that say they’re ‘flushable’ 

  • Medicines, pills, paints and chemicals which cause damage to pipes and the environment.

Easy English What you can put in your sink and toilet

An Easy English booklet on what you can and can't put down the sink and toilet to prevent pipes from getting blocked.

Discover more about how to prevent pipe blockages.

Problem still not solved?

Our Faults and Emergencies team are here to help.

Need a plumber?

If you have a water or sewerage issue on your property, contact a licensed plumber to fix it for you. South East Water Priority Plumbing is on hand to assist you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What’s happening in your area

We’re always working to keep your water flowing. Keep up to date with emergency works, planned improvements, outages and maintenance work in your area.