South East Water, City West Water and Yarra Valley Water have joined forces in an effort to inform the community of the real impact of wet wipes on Melbourne’s sewer infrastructure.

Victoria’s three metropolitan water businesses are calling on the 4.2 million people who they supply with water and sewerage services across Melbourne to stop flushing wet wipes down the toilet.

“Just like a blocked artery is caused by build-up of fatty, waxy deposits – wipes and other non-biodegradable products in the sewer clump together forming slimy, thick mounds in catch points and bends and ultimately cause blockages,” said South East Water Managing Director, Kevin Hutchings.

The industry’s peak national body, Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), estimates that blockages caused mainly by wet wipes cost the urban water industry more than $15 million each year.

“Our sewers were not designed for wet wipes and they wreak havoc with our pipes and pumps, generating additional costs which are ultimately borne by the whole community,” said Yarra Valley Water Managing Director Pat McCafferty.

Flushing wipes and other items not suitable for the sewer can cause havoc for households to, producing messy toilet overflows, expensive household plumbing repairs and spills of sewage into homes or the environment.

“Putting the wrong things down the toilet, sink or drain also means the waste costs a lot more to treat and dispose of, and it can cause environmental harm,” said City West Water Managing Director Anne Barker.

Quick facts:

  • Every fortnight more than four tonnes of wet wipes are removed from Yarra Valley Water’s sewerage network because they have been flushed into the system.
  • South East Water carried out tests at 50 pump stations where blockages had occurred and found 70 per cent were caused by wipes.
  • City West Water spends more than $1 million a year clearing sewer blockages with wet wipes emerging as a growing cause.
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