Advice for businesses

If your business has been affected by Covid-19 and your building has been closed for longer than a week, or your water use has significantly reduced, then there’s some important steps you need to do to keep your water system safe.

It is essential that when buildings reopen, following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, that any water system is not simply put straight back into use, but flushed and maintained to protect public health.

For guidance on recovering drinking water supplies in buildings and networks after prolonged inactivity, click here.

Disposal of beer and cider from public houses, clubs, restaurants and other similar establishments

South West Water are unable to give a blanket statement permitting the discharge of waste beers and ciders to sewer. This is due to the rural nature of much of our catchment and the polluting nature of beer that could overwhelm the receiving treatment works, potentially leading to the pollution of watercourses.  Our website includes a list of postcodes where we are unlikely to be able to consent a beer disposal due to this. Please check if your postcode is on this list. If so, you will need to look for an alternative method to dispose your beer.  

The options available to you are:

  1. To dispose of the beer or cider that does not involve putting this into our sewer network, e.g. asking the brewery to collect, using a licensed waste carrier OR
  2. To request a beer disposal to our sewer network by completing the online form here. Please only submit your application to SWW, after you have received approval for the beer disposal from HMRC.



Obtaining permission to discharge

South West Water will require the submission of a fully completed form to apply for a discharge authorisation. This can be applied for individually by a publican or on behalf of multiple sites by the operating company. It is important to choose only one approach as duplication will cause further delay to the approval process.

On receipt of your application form we will undertake an operational assessment to determine whether we can accommodate your proposed discharge. If we are able to accept the discharge, we will issue a formal letter/email covering the discharge conditions and will raise a charge to cover operational/administrative costs.  The minimum charge of £129.36 per 1000 litres (220 gallons) will apply. Any disposals exceeding this volume will be calculated using this charge pro-rata.


Why we need to control the discharge of beer into sewers

Beer and cider are high strength effluents, that can have a significant impact on our treatment works and the environment. Unregulated discharges of beer made to the foul sewer may overwhelm some of our small, rural treatment works which may not have the capacity and could result in high levels of ammonia and other pollutants entering a watercourse causing environmental damage including fish kills.

South West Water will assess and manage the volume of waste beer to our wastewater treatment works and allow for phased timing of discharges and volumes to ensure that our treatment processes can cope with it.


Enforcement & Compliance with our instructions

Please be aware that, without written consent from South West Water to discharge to the public sewer, it is a criminal offence under the Water Industry Act 1991 and enforcement action may be taken against the occupier of the premise if they incorrectly dispose of the waste product into the sewer system.

Should your request to discharge waste beer be refused, you must find other means of disposal (e.g. contacting Commercial Waste Services for a specialist collection).

Why is it important to manage water systems if my business is closed?


It’s important that you manage and keep all water systems safe whilst premises are closed, or if there’s a significant reduction in water use, to ensure the health and safety of guests, visitors and staff. Special attention should be paid to the risk of:

  • Legionnaires’ disease, which is caused by the growth of Legionella bacteria in building water systems which are not adequately managed
  • The leaching of metals such as cadmium, lead, copper, nickel or zinc from internal plumbing systems, that have been left to stagnate
  • Other forms of microbiological or chemical deterioration which can cause taste and odour problems, discolouration or other changes in the wholesomeness of supplies and may be harmful to health.


What should I do to re-commission my water system?


Suitable precautions should have been taken at the de-commissioning stage, if the premises have remained vacant for long periods. Upon re-commissioning, water systems and associated equipment should be managed following the procedures you have in place, to ensure that when you open your facilities the water supply does not cause any harm to health. It is important that water is not allowed to stagnate within the water system, but if it has then advice is available via the links below or follow the maintenance schedule within your building water safety plan.

  • As a general principle, outlets on hot and cold-water systems should be used at least once a week to maintain a degree of water flow and minimise the chances of stagnation. To manage the risks during non-occupancy, consideration should be given to implementing a suitable flushing regime or other measures.
  • Flushing regimes should be carried out with valves in a fully open position to remove particulate matter and should be recorded in your maintenance log.
  • Aerosolised water poses a greater risk and can be created in systems that include cooling towers, evaporative air conditioning systems, spa pools / tubs, showers, dentists’ chairs etc.
  • Flushing, cleaning and disinfection should be considered to reduce the risks associated with stagnant water in tanks, calorifiers and complex pipework. Systems that are deemed to require disinfection should be disinfected in accordance with BS8558.


For comprehensive information regarding the risks to the water supply within buildings and how to ensure water systems within premises remain safe, the links are provided below:

What should I do if the water has an unusual taste, odour or appearance?


Please contact us if you're experiencing problems with your water quality after flushing and cleaning.


What should I do if I use water filter or softener?


If your building has any internal filters or water softeners, then these should be checked to ensure they are working correctly as outlined in the manufacturer’s instruction manual.


What steps should I take before reopening my commercial kitchen?


If you closed in a hurry, you may not have cleaned your kitchen – and the length of the closure means it’s been unused for a while. This could cause drains to block, equipment to jam or hazardous bacteria to spread.


To help protect your business, your equipment and your customers:

  • Clean your equipment. If your grease management equipment wasn’t cleaned properly before closure, hazardous bacteria could develop and odours could attract pests. Contact your installer or provider to drain it, remove trapped waste and perform a full clean.
  • Maintain your equipment. Equipment that wasn’t cleaned properly before closure will need maintaining to prevent problems when it’s used again. Switch off the equipment’s electricity supply and run water through it for four minutes every other day.
  • Don’t forget your fat trap. Fat traps left unused could become smelly and waste inside could harden and form blocks. Avoid this by having them cleaned. If they aren’t cleaned, run water through them for four minutes every other day that you’re shut.

Bio-dosing your drains during closure is fine. However, when the container is empty, remove it from the kitchen. Fit a new container of fluid when the kitchen re-opens.


Over time, waste from your kitchen can block pipes and cause floods. If you don’t have grease management, you could install some while you’re closed to protect your business and your community.


What should I do when I reopen my food service business?


Before restarting your grease management equipment, re-clean it (or have it fully cleaned if not done during closure) according to the manufacturer or installer’s instructions.


Kitchen drains could have dried up, causing waste to stick to the pipes and form blocks.  Flush your drains with water and check your sink gullies for blockages that could have formed.


When food outlets reopen, the sudden increase in waste could cause blockages. Our pipes could have dried up, causing waste to stick to them. You can help by using sink strainers and training staff to stop waste going down the drain.


Flush your customer and staff toilets several times prior to use to check they are still flowing.