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As a homeowner being provided water or sewer services by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), you are responsible for the water and sewer systems inside your home and on your property. Your sewer lateral, water service lines, backflow preventer, sanitary backwater device, and plumbing system all belong to you. If you have a septic system for wastewater treatment, that entire system is your responsibility.
Refer to the illustration below to get a better idea of what belongs to you and what parts of the system are managed by DWR. You can find out more about each topic using the dropdown selections below.
Easements and Right-of-Way
When purchasing a home, you probably assume that you are purchasing all the land around your home, including the front and back yard and driveway, but that is not always the case. There is a strip of land along the public roadway, called the right-of-way, which is reserved for use by utility companies to install their cables, meters, poles, or pipes. The width of this right-of-way can vary significantly depending on the classification of the road and the style of development in the area. However, the maintenance of this area is still typically the responsibility of the property owner and it must be kept accessible and free of debris or obstructions. In Gwinnett County, DWR employees or contractors must be given access to the right-of-way by the property owner to maintain the sewer system and water distribution system. The water meter and cable posts are usually installed at the edge of the right-of-way, which should give a visual clue as to its location.
An easement is similar to a right-of-way but may cross the property at locations other than along the roadway. These easements are located along publicly owned underground pipes, utility cables, or other infrastructure. Easements can also exist along the path of surface drainage ways. Maintenance requirements for these easements vary, but the property owner is typically restricted from planting trees or building certain types of improvements within them. Easements that cross private property are generally written and recorded with the local assessor’s office, and you should be able to find documents related to any easements on your property as part of a title search. Easements are legal commitments tied directly to the property itself and are usually binding to any future owner as well.
A private sewer lateral connects the interior plumbing of a home to the public sewer system. The property owner is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the sewer lateral in the same way that you would maintain and replace your furnace or roof if they were damaged or broken. The private lateral extends to the edge of the right-of-way, and property owners are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the entire lateral including the connection point to the public sewer. Homeowners should be cautious when plumbers claim that work they perform on the customer’s property will be reimbursed by the County. Specific conditions must apply before reimbursement will be considered. Learn more.