Building over an easement

You can save both time and money by learning about building near or over easements/assets.

Easements ExplanationWhat is an easement?

An easement is a section of land registered on your property title which gives another party the right to use the land for a specific purpose, even though they are not the landowner.

In terms of Greater Western Water assets, an easement would relate to sections of private property that have a water main or sewerage pipe running through them.

Because we will occasionally need access to the easement to make repairs or maintain the pipes you will need to take this into consideration when planning to build.

Building over a maintenance hole or water or sewer main prevents access by our contractors and staff. It can also be dangerous – for example, building a habitable dwelling over a sewer main that has the potential to release gases. 

Applying for permission to build over an easement or near a water or sewer asset

If you are building over an easement that is the responsibility of Greater Western Water, or within one metre of a Greater Western Water asset, prior approval must be granted by Greater Western Water.

Works can only commence after receiving Greater Western Water’s written consent to proceed.

Failure to obtain Greater Western Water’s approval is an offence under the Water Act 1989. Penalties may apply. The property owner may also be faced with the costs of removing the structure and any associated damages resulting from unauthorised structures.

Visit Property+ and apply online to build over an easement or near an asset.

The Build over Easement Guidelines

The Build over Easement guidelines has been created to provide an outline of the requirements which need to be considered when planning to construct works over the Water Authority’s easement or within one metre of sewer and/or water assets.

You can use the guidelines for a more comprehensive overview of our requirements.

Please note: The following guidelines reference City West Water and Western Water. Together, we are now Greater Western Water,
please call us on 1300 299 228​​​​​​​ to discuss anything from these guidelines.

Guidelines download

We need to access our sewer and water assets

We require 24 hour access to all sewer and water assets. A structure located over a sewer asset can delay being able to repair or maintain the sewer, impacting our services to customers.

Water mains are a pressured pipe and require 24 hour access to be able to shut off, repair and/or maintain the pipe. A water main burst can cause serious damage to property. Greater Western Water does not permit a structure over a water main.

Maintenance holes need to be clear too

Maintenance holes are circular or rectangular concrete or metal lids and are usually located in the middle or side of the street, right of ways or on easements within private property. We access the sewer mains via maintenance holes.

Greater Western Water requires a one metre unobstructed clearance around the maintenance hole to allow our maintenance crew to slide the lid open and access the maintenance hole safely.

Planting over an Easement

It is important to think carefully about the type of plants that you place over and near an easement. Many plants have the potential to cause problems for the pipes buried underneath.

Trees, in particular, have extensive root systems that can infiltrate pipes. Tree roots seek out moisture and nutrients, which are both contained in drainage and sewerage pipes.

A small fracture in a pipe is all that a root needs to find its way in and spread. Roots growing in a pipe can slow the flow rate and can cause blockages or damage the pipe.

If a tree has caused damage to a pipe, it will need to be professionally removed and maintenance crews may need to dig up the entire garden located over an easement in order to install or repair it.

There are a number of plants that can safely be planted on and near an easement that won’t upset the drainage system. In general, groundcovers, climbers, grasses and small shrubs do not have deep root systems that can damage pipes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is lodging a Build over Easement application regarded as an approval to build?

No. Greater Western Water will need to assess your proposed plans to ensure they comply with the Build over Easement guidelines. Amendments to your plans may be required. An approval will only be issued once all our requirements have been met.

An encumbrance will be recorded on the property, informing any future owner of the property of the existence of the build over easement agreement/approval.

How can I find out information such as location, depth, size and grade of sewer mains and property connections?

This information can be provided by completing a Sewer Details Asset Information application.

For information on other utilities such as stormwater drains, underground electricity, gas or telecommunications, please contact the appropriate utility provider.

I am proposing to do some landscaping over a sewerage easement. Do I need to submit a Build over Easement application?

Yes. But only if you are building a structure, e.g. a retaining wall or a garden bed (greater than 300mm high) or placing a fill/site cut greater than 300mm over an easement. 

What do I need to include when submitting a Build over Easement application?

When lodging the application, please ensure you supply all relevant plans and documents. If you are unsure of what is relevant to provide, it is better to include it. Include documents such as:

  • Architectural / Drafting/ Drawing plans
  • Engineering / structural design plans
  • Planning/building permits
  • Reports
  • Title plan and survey plans
  • Covering letter if applicable

I am proposing to install a small garden shed over the easement that I have purchased from a hardware store. I do not have any architectural plans for it. What details do I need to provide you?

If you have purchased a small DIY garden shed and placing it over the easement, you will need to supply Greater Western Water with a site plan showing where the shed is going to be located. This should include offsets from title boundaries, the shed size (L x W x H) and the type of footing required, eg. 100mm paving slab. We will also need a copy of the shed pamphlet/catalogue. 

Why does my footing depth need to achieve angle of repose?

Angle of Repose is the line of influence from the sewer pipe. Generally an angle of 45 degrees taken from the edge of pipe.

If your proposed structure is considered a heavy structure i.e. brick garage, you are required to deepen the footings to achieve angle of repose in relation to the sewer pipe depth.

Angle of repose is required to protect your structure from subsiding and/or being undermined if maintenance works are required to the sewer main. By having deepened footings below the zone of influence it ensures the structure is self-supporting.

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