Drainage systems, manholes and gullies

We maintain drainage systems to reduce the risk of standing water on roads, pavements and cycleways.

Standing water on roads, pavements and cycleways can increase risks to the safety of highway users, particularly on high speed roads and in freezing conditions.   Standing water can lead to weakening of foundations - in extreme cases ineffective or non-existent drainage systems can lead to flooding of adjacent properties.  Displaced manhole covers and frames can be a hazard to pedestrians and a potential hazard to drivers and cyclists.  Damaged covers can also collapse leaving a hole.

Gullies are used to collect and drain water off the road or pavement into a piped system or roadside ditch.  (A gully is a large pot covered by a metal grid and is usually found at the edge of a road but they can also be found in pedestrian areas).  Gullies are sometimes blocked by a build up of silt or mud coming off the road or washed off adjoining land. They are cleaned once a year by a mechanical gully emptying machine but any which are prone to regular silting or blocking are cleaned more often. Water is put into the gully pot to loosen the contents and then a pump is used to suck it out.  Other forms of drainage (catchpits, soakaways, pipes, highway ditches etc.) are checked and cleaned or repaired when required, or when a problem is reported to us.

Sometimes a gully may appear to be blocked but the problem could be with the drain into which the gully is connected. If these sewers or drains become blocked, localised ponding or flooding may occur, which is slow to clear. In times of heavy storms, sewers may become full but the ponding or flooding clears quickly when the rain stops and the level of flow in the sewer drops allowing the gullies to work.

The gully grid can also become obstructed by an accumulation of leaves (particularly during the autumnal season) or by the concentration of general litter. Any report of gullies blocked by leaves and litter should be referred to your Borough or District Council as they are responsible for removal of these as part of their street cleaning duties.

Drainage from private houses and on private land (including incoming service, waste/surface water and foul) are the responsibility of the house owner or Anglian Water.  Any enquiries relating to sewage problems should also be directed to the relevant water authority, which in Suffolk is usually Anglian Water

Gullies in private roads and parking areas are the responsibility of house or property owners, and gullies in Borough or District Council car parks or land should be reported to the respective Borough or District Council

Many open ditch drainage systems next to roads are historic and the nearby landowner has responsibility for their maintenance, but we have powers to clean these ditches and/or to drain the road properly if necessary.

To report a highway drainage problem please use our online form but if you consider the problem you are reporting presents an immediate danger, please contact our Customer Service Centre.  

Any potentially dangerous problems caused by drainage systems are normally dealt with within 24 hours. This includes damaged manhole covers which can collapse and present a danger to road users.   We try to deal with blocked drains causing flooded roads within 2 to 4 weeks. 

If there is a drainage or flooding problem on a trunk road  (PDF, 89kb) please contact the Highways Agency Information Line.

Main drains or foul sewers are the responsibility of Anglian Water

If you do not know the source of drainage or flooding problems please contact us using the email address floods@suffolk.gov.uk.

Other organisations with responsibilities for drainage:

Home and business owners are responsible for protecting their own property against flooding.  Read our flooding information and visit the Suffolk Resilience Forum website to read a range of advice that covers preparation and protection in case of a flood and what to do in the event of a flood.