Water & Sewer Services FAQ

Member of the Water and Sewer team in 2023. Photo by V Watson.
  • Why Do I Occasionally Experience Low Pressure Or No Water?

Planned Impacts

For all planned works that may impact on water supply, we endeavour to notify all customers in advance that they may be affected. Sometimes, due to the complex nature of how the water is supplied through the network, there can be unforeseen impacts, which we have to deal with in a reactive manner.

Unplanned Impacts

In water operations, reactive works regularly have to be carried out on an unscheduled basis – identifying damaged water infrastructure can require exploratory works which may have an unknown impact on local supply.

Flushing a main to address discoloration can have an unintended impact of lowering pressure in neighbouring areas. Usually these impacts are very short term and very localised, minimising the impact on customers and this is the practical approach that we take.


Impact Of Low Pressure Or Interruption To Supply

When mains pressure is reinstated, water discoloration can occur – speed of water can pick up sediment and air can be trapped. Water with sediment looks discoloured whilst aerated water looks white. Sediment settles in a glass (water clears from the top down), whilst air rises (water clears from the bottom upwards). 

Similar problems are experienced if water crews have to open valves to help water into an area. Where we can, we try to flush the mains to minimise this problem.

What Are The Signs of a Sewer Blockage or Cracked Pipes?

  • Toilets, basins, baths or tubs are slow to empty
  • Toilets overflow or fill higher than usual
  • Gully-traps in the yard overflow when the toilet is flushed or when basins or baths are released
  • Gurgling noises occur in sanitary drains

What Can Cause A Sewer Blockage Or Overflow?

  • Inappropriate materials being disposed of into sewer drains e.g. Rubbish, children’s toys, tennis balls, nappies, clothing, sanitary pads/tampons, colostomy bags, cooking waste, sand and other wastes not suitable for flushing into the sewer system
  • Tree roots infiltrating the property pipes
  • Sewer pipes that have been crushed or flattened
  • Sewer pipes that have been poorly laid
  • Illegal connection of storm water pipes into the sewer system causing overflows when it rains

What Should I Do If I Have A Sewer Blockage Or Overflow?

If you have a sewer blockage in your home, minimise the use of facilities connected to the sewer system where possible (e.g. toilets, showers, baths, washing machines and dishwashers) until the cause of the problem is found and the issue is resolved. If there is an overflow keep away from the area.

You will then need to find where the issue is coming from:

  • If you experience an issue with only one of your facilities (e.g. a slowly draining toilet, sink or shower), it is likely to be due to a blockage in your property service drain or in the pipework up to your Boundary Riser. This is your responsibility and you will need to engage a licenced plumber.
  • If you experience issues with all your facilities, the could be a blockage between the Boundary Riser and Council’s sewer main or manhole, please contact Council and we will fix the problem at no cost.
  • If the location of the blockage cannot be clearly identified, it is essential that you contact Council first, so our sewer team can attend to investigate the problem. If the blockage is determined to be Council’s responsibility, we will repair at no cost to you. However, if found to be within your responsibility area, we will provide you with advice and options for resolving the issue (e.g. contacting a licenced plumber).

Note: If you engage a plumber to attend to a sewer issue, Council will not be held accountable for the incurred costs if it is determined the sewer issue is in Council’s responsibility area.

What Can I Do To Help Prevent Sewer Blockages Or Overflows?

  • Don’t illegally connect stormwater pipes to the sewer
  • Don’t plant trees over the sewer pipes as the roots can grow in and cause blockages
  • Don’t connect roof gutter pipes to the sewer system
  • Only flush toilet paper down the toilet. Put other items in the garbage. Follow the 3 P’s.
  • Don’t put food scraps, oil or cooking fats down the sink. These can solidify when they cool and cause blockages. Wipe pans with paper towel and throw it in a bin instead
  • Don’t bury manholes/lamp holes or boundary risers under gardens, driveways or lawns

Note: A Sewer Reference Sheet* showing where Council’s sewer mains are located, or a Sewer Drainage Diagram* showing your internal sewer pipes can be purchased via an application here.

What Areas Do the Sewage Treatment Plants Cover? 

Across the Shire, Council manages and operates six separate Sewage Treatment Plants (STP’s).

Three larger plants service the Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale areas while three smaller STP’s manage the villages of Bundanoon, Berrima and Robertson.

The maps below provide an approximation of the sewerage network. They are provided for general information only.

Berrima-Sewage-Treatment-Plant-Coverage-Area.pdf(PDF, 2MB)

Bowral-Sewage-Treatment-Plant-Coverage-Area.pdf(PDF, 4MB)

Bundanoon-Sewage-Treatment-Plant-Coverage-Area.pdf(PDF, 3MB)

Mittagong-Sewage-Treatment-Plant-Coverage-Area.pdf(PDF, 3MB)

Moss-Vale-Sewage-Treatment-Plant-Coverage-Area.pdf(PDF, 3MB)

Robertson-Sewage-Treatment-Plant-Coverage-Area.pdf(PDF, 2MB)

What Happens If The Alarm On My Pressure Sewer System Sounds?  

Council managed PSS scheme

Council pressure sewer systems (PSS) have a 24-hour storage capacity. If there is an issue (e.g. blockage in the pump, high infiltration due to wet weather event, power outage etc.) and the alarm becomes activated on the PSS unit: 

  • Mute the sound of the alarm by pressing the button underneath the PSS panel unit however, the alarm light will remain on (red colour) to indicate there is still a potential issue.
  • Minimise the use of facilities connected to the sewer system where possible (e.g. toilets, showers, baths, washing machines and dishwashers) until the cause of the problem is found and the issue is resolved. 
  • If there is an overflow keep away from the area.
  • If the alarm light on the PSS panel unit is still active (red colour) after an hour, please contact Council on (02) 4868 0888 (24 hours) who will attend to investigate.  

Note: After a power outage, the PSS will automatically turn on and clear itself and the alarm on PSS panel unit will switch off (usually within one hour of power being restored). 

Privately Owned Systems

As these systems are the responsibility of the property owner, you need to contact the service provider or a licenced plumber to investigate and repair.

Why Do We Occasionally Get Dirty Water?

A combination of circumstances can create dirty water, but the most common is when sediment is dislodged from our water supply mains.

Sediments accumulate in pipelines due to unavoidable changes in the chemistry of the water as it passes through the reticulation network.

Trace elements, such as iron and manganese, come out of solution and accumulate in the distribution pipes over long periods of time until they are dislodged by a sudden increase in the rate of flow. These trace elements occur naturally in all water sources because most substances are soluble in water.

Is The Water Safe To Drink?

Discolouration is generally an aesthetic issue, with a slight taste making the water unpleasant to drink. The best advice is that if you personally have any concerns don't drink the water until it clears.

Although contamination of the water supply with substances that could have an adverse impact on health is very unlikely, Council has emergency procedures to deal with such potential events.

These are based on regular monitoring of the supplies and could involve shutting down Council's water treatment plants to prevent contaminated water being distributed, draining of service reservoirs to remove contaminated water from the system and alerting the public by a variety of means.

Why Does Council Flush The Mains & Waste Water?

This is a common and very understandable question, particularly in a dry time.

It is not a pleasant sight to watch hundreds of litres of water being flushed down the drain. Unfortunately there is no other way to clear dirty water from mains. Wherever possible we try to do the main scouring in places, where the water can be returned to the catchment via our drainage systems.

What To Do If The Washing Gets Dirty?

If you get caught with a load of dirty washing, the best idea is to keep the washing wet. Don't hang it up. If you have some of the commercial products, like nappy stain removers, in the house that should do the trick with another wash, after the dirty water is removed from the system.

If that fails Council, will provide you with a bottle of a detergent with a high concentration of citric acid, which is also very effective.

How Do I Get Rid Of The Dirty Water From House Pipes?

Council's scouring or flushing procedures, will remove dirty water from the mains, but it will not remove the problem from the water in your house pipes.

After the mains have been cleared, house pipes can be easily cleared by turning on a couple of cold water taps, slowly at first and preferably at the end of the line, to expel built up air pressure.

An outside garden tap at the back of the house is best and you won't waste the water if you run it on the garden. Milky coloured water is a sign of air trapped in the supply system and should clear with flushing. 

What About My Hot Water System?

Hot water systems over time will acquire some sediment in them regardless of the quality of the water. It is suggested that if you do have dirty water, do not use your hot water unless it is absolutely necessary.

If dirty water does infiltrate your hot water system it will settle overnight. As hot water is drawn from the top of the tank for pressure systems, and from the lower 80% for gravity systems, it should not pose a problem if allowed to settle overnight.

What If There Is An Interruption to Water Supply?

Sometimes Council staff need to turn off the water supply to carry out essential work on the water mains. Care should be taken to ensure that water heaters and washing machines are not used and taps are left closed while the water supply is shut off.

You may elect to turn off the household water at the meter and wait until the remedial work has finished before returning your service to normal.

After restoration of the water supply, open taps slowly at first, to allow any trapped air to escape. This is particularly important prior to operation of the hot water systems, washing machines and other appliances.

Again it's best to use an outside tap at the back of the house and use the water on your garden. If discoloured water appears, flush the pipe by running a full flow until the water clears.

What Is The Water Hardness Level For My Town?

The water supply of the Wingecarribee Shire Council can be split into 2 areas;

Bundanoon Water Treatment Plant supplies the townships of Bundanoon, Exeter and Sutton Forest.

Wingecarribee Water Treatment Plant supplies the townships of Robertson, Moss Vale, Berrima, Bowral, Mittagong, Colo Vale, Hill Top and Yerrinbool.

Please find below the conversion of the levels for water hardness;

Hard/ Soft Conversion

Hardness in mg/L
Soft 0 - 60
Moderately Hard 61 - 120
Hard 121 - 180 
Very Hard  ≥ 181

Note: Total Hardness CaCO 3 = Calcium Carbonate

1m/L = 1ppm

100ml + 1mmol/L

As at March 2017 the total water hardness for the Wingecarribee Shire is as follows;

The below information is a guide only. Please note that water hardness level can change subtly with location and may vary over time.

Hardness Conversion
Bundanoon Areas 80 (approx) Moderately Hard
Wingecarribee Areas 55 (approx)  Soft

I Have a Rainwater Tank, How Can I Confirm the Water is Safe to Drink and Maintained Correctly?

Information and references on rainwater tank set-up and maintenance can be found on our “Rainwater tank” web page.