Drains, ditches and flooding

What is Island Roads responsible for?

Island Roads is responsible for maintaining a safe highway network and that includes work to reduce the likelihood of highway flooding.  Much of this work involves the maintenance of the Island’s existing highway drainage systems including gully and drain cleansing, street cleansing and the maintenance of highway ditches. The activities to be carried out – and their frequency – are agreed with the Isle of Wight Council and monitored by the authority’s Highway PFI contract management team.

We also provide, within our available resources, an emergency response when highway flooding occurs. This will typically involve unblocking drainage systems that have been overwhelmed by storm debris.

We are NOT responsible however, for water that enters the network from adjoining land or properties which can also bring with it materials that cause blockages and flooding (this ‘third party’ water is often recognisable by its brown muddy rather than clear appearance).  It is the responsibility of land and property owners to prevent water from discharging onto the highway which might overwhelm the drainage systems in place.

Drain and gully cleansing

A highway gully is a drainage pit covered by an open metal grating located on the edge of the road. The purpose of the gully is to drain water from the highway into the drainage system. A highway drain is a pipe connecting the highway gully to the surface water sewer. This enables rainwater from the highway gully into the surface water drainage system. Keeping the highway drains and gullies cleansed is a key function in preventing highway flooding.

At the start of its contract in 2013, Island Roads carried out a deep cleanse of the entire highway drainage system.  The network is also subject to a cleansing schedule agreed with the IW Council and monitored by the local authority’s contract management team.  Read more and watch a video of our gully cleansing operations.

Street cleansing

Debris on the highway can also reduce the capacity of a drainage system as it is swept into it by rainfall. The amount of debris on the network is reduced by regular street sweeping.

Leaf fall can also cause an issue, particularly in Autumn as trees shed their leaves. At this time, additional steps are taken to prevent this vegetation causing a safety hazard on the highway and/or entering (and compromising) the gully system.

Read more about our street cleansing services.

Roadside ditch clearance

Highway flooding is a nuisance for everyone, and overgrown or blocked drainage ditches can be just one of the many causes.

Island Roads is responsible for a proportion of ditches that run alongside the highway and work is regularly undertaken to keep these cut back and cleared of debris to allow water on the highway to drain effectively.

However, many more of the roadside ditches belong to local land and property owners.  It is their responsibility, by law, to ensure ditches are kept clear and land adequately drained to prevent water, earth, and vegetation from entering onto the highway area.  For more information on these responsibilities please view our leaflet ‘Working together to ditch highway flooding’ 

Sewerage, sewers, drains and other drainage

Domestic sewer and drainage problems are dealt with by the Isle of Wight Council’s housing department. They can offer advice to customers and also enforce the laws covering drainage and sewers. Please contact the Isle of Wight Council’s call centre on 01983 821000 or visit www.iwight.com for more information.

Sewerage pipes and manhole covers in the highway are usually controlled by Southern Water. Southern Water can be contacted on 01983 526611 or 0330 303 0368.

How do I report excessive highway surface water, or flooding from drains and gullies alongside the highway?

To report an incident of flooding from drains or gullies or excessive surface water,  report it via our online form. In an emergency call the Island Roads help desk on 01983 822440.

Extensive periods of rain can cause water to engulf roads and drainage systems. What should I do if I encounter any known groundwater flooding on my property?

Any instances of flooding should be reported to the Island Roads help desk on 01983 822440 or reported via our online form. You must not discharge water on the highway, especially during a flood, as water can freeze and form ice on roads. Alternative discharge points should be available, such as connecting to a regular highway gully. These can be installed if they’re not present. Under no circumstances should you discharge water in to the sewer system as they are not designed to accommodate flood water and the pipe can quickly become overwhelmed with water, which can cause flooding of foul water.

Sandbag provision

While it is not the council’s or Island Roads responsibility to protect individual homes or businesses and people are responsible for their own properties, in some emergency situations, the council will instruct Island Roads to position stocks of sandbags at the following strategic locations:

  • Well Road, East Cowes.
  • Simeon Street Recreation Ground, Ryde.
  • St Mary’s car park, Cowes

Read more about our sandbag collection points.

For help with other forms of flooding

For general issues around flooding, contact the Isle of Wight Council on (01983) 823600.

If you believe the flooding is from a main river or the sea, contact the Environment Agency on 0345 988 1188. www.environment-agency.gov.uk

The Environment Agency also provides help on flooding issues via its Floodline: 0345 988 1188.

Notify Southern Water if flooding affects your mains sewage/public drains by calling 0330 303 0368. www.southernwater.co.uk

Other useful contacts

Other useful contacts and information and advice about flooding can be found on the council’s website https://www.iow.gov.uk/news/Who-to-call-if-a-flood-happens


You can also read our factsheet on flooding.