Keep your sewer lateral in good condition and help reduce the risk of sewer backups.
How to Protect your Property and Environment?
Never let fats, oils or grease go down the drain; compost it instead. Dumping grease down the drain can clog the sewer pipes, result in back-ups or overflows onto your property or streets, foul odors, and costly damage to sewer infrastructure.
Remember that your toilet is an “only-human-waste-and-toilet-paper-zone.” Nothing, except the 3 P’s (pee, poop and toilet paper), go down the drains.
Lower Lateral Responsibility:
You are responsible for maintaining it, including clearing and jetting the pipe to keep the pipe clear and in good working order. Property owners are responsible for keeping the pipe in good working order by regularly clearing it or inspecting it using Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) to identify any defects. And of course, by not putting trash, grease or other materials down household drains.
Upper Lateral Responsibility:
The upper sewer lateral is an extension of your home, even if you can’t see it, which means you're fully responsible for it. That’s why we encourage property owners to inspect and keep their lateral clear of trash, grease and other materials (anything not human waste or toilet paper) that can clog and damage pipes. Property owners are responsible for maintenance, including clearing and jetting the pipe to keep the pipe clear and in good working order. If the pipe is found in bad conditions, property owners must also repair and replace according to latest San Francisco Plumbing Codes. Check out the Sewer Lateral Standards for property owners, contractors or developers.
Do you need a sewer backwater valve?
What is sewer backflow protection?
Sewer backflow protection typically utilizes a backwater valve (aka “backflow prevention device”) on drainage pipes to protect the building from sewer backup. The backwater valve is designed to automatically shut when water flows towards the property. See the two scenarios on the right where a backwater valve can protect the building from a sewer backup.
Does my property need a backwater valve?
Most properties have been built so that an obstruction in the public sewer or sewer lateral between the curb and sewer main should not cause a sewage backup into the property. However, some properties require the extra protection of a backwater valve within the owner’s property. Typically, these properties have been built so that the drain of the lowest plumbing fixture (shower, floor drain, toilet, etc.) is lower than the air vent (aka “fresh air inlet”) of the sewer lateral.
Consider installing a backwater valve.
If your property appears to require a backwater valve, we strongly encourage you to consider installing one. The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection Plumbing Division will be able to provide the following:
- further guidance on whether your property should have a backwater valve and
- directions on how to properly install a backwater valve.
Please visit their website at https://sfdbi.org/backflow-preventer.
You may also be be eligible for our Flood Water Management Grant Assistance Program.
Be sure to maintain your backwater valve!
If you have a backwater valve, or decide to install one, please note that it must be checked to ensure that it is operating properly at all times. Debris in the drain line or other problems can easily damage or interfere with backwater valves. Follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance instructions and schedule. It is best practice to conduct maintenance before every rainy season.
Protect Your Water and Sewer Laterals with Lateral Insurance
Our priority is to ensure critical water and sewer infrastructure is working properly to protect public health and the environment. We encourage homeowners to protect and maintain their water and sewer laterals (“pipes”) that connect their home to the SFPUC’s systems, as we believe many of our customers could benefit by obtaining optional lateral insurance for lateral repair and replacement. Most property owners are often unaware of their responsibilities with regards to their utility laterals, specifically for both water and sewer service laterals.
How to obtain insurance?
We know shopping for insurance can be difficult. In order to assist homeowners with the costly expenses that can occur when the water and sewer lines leak, break or clog, the SFPUC sought an optional and voluntary low-cost warranty option for property owners, and issued a Request-for-Proposal (“RFP”) in a standard competitive bidding process. The RFP required several minimum qualifications, such as the bidder’s minimum experience, timeliness of response, and contractor qualifications, and as a result selected American Water Resources (AWR). AWR is offering voluntary water and sewer coverage to the homeowners of San Francisco to assist with the costly expense of repairing these lines. The coverage is intended to react to service disruptions, such as a leak in the water lateral on the customer side or a break in the upper sewer lateral. Similar to all insurance products, we highly recommend any interested customers to review specific terms and conditions in detail, as the product is sold by AWR. For more information about the program and to enroll visit www.awrusa.com/SanFrancisco, or contact AWR by phone at (844) 765-7262 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also recommend you check on your home insurance policy to find out if it includes lateral coverage, or contact your insurance broker to explore purchasing lateral insurance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Did you give my contact information to AWR or letter wasn’t addressed to the correct homeowner?
SFPUC does not release customer information. AWR acquired a list of customers in San Francisco from a 3rd party vendor with a set of postcards and enrollment letters sent to this list of customers.
What types of programs are being offered?
The programs being offered to San Francisco residents at this time are Water and Sewer Line protection programs. Please call AWR 1-844-765-7262, Opt. 2 for Customer Service.
I do not wish to receive any more mailers. How do I stop receiving these mailers?
Please call AWR at to make your request. 1-844-765-7262, Opt. 2 for Customer Service.
I need to file a claim or have already filed a claim, and I have one or more Service Line Protection Programs from AWR. What should I do?
Please call AWR at 1-844-765-7262, Opt. 3 for the Billing Department.