In the UK, the average person uses about 142 litres of water per day, according to Water UK. While this may not seem extensive, the cumulative effect on septic systems, particularly in how water flows into tanks over short periods, can be significant. Properly maintaining your septic tank is crucial to stay compliant with the law and ensure the longevity and efficiency of your system.

Understanding Your Septic System

A septic tank is a large, watertight container, usually made of concrete, fibreglass, or plastic, which treats wastewater from your home (from showers, toilets, and kitchens). It’s an effective, cost-efficient method for wastewater treatment for homes not connected to the mains sewage system.

The system consists of the septic tank and the drainage field, also known as a soakaway. Wastewater enters the septic tank, where solids settle at the bottom, and liquid waste flows through perforated pipes into the drainage field, gradually seeping into the soil where it is naturally filtered.

Regular Maintenance and Legal Requirements

To prevent pollution and ensure the system does not cause environmental health problems, it is crucial to adhere to the following practices:

  • Regular Desludging: Septic tanks should be emptied at least annually by a registered waste carrier. This frequency may increase depending on usage and tank size.
  • Fault Repairs: Any damages or issues with the septic system should be addressed immediately to avoid complications.
  • System Inspection: Check the area where your tank releases sewage monthly for signs of potential problems.
  • Discharge Limits: Ensure that your system does not exceed the discharge limits of 2,000 litres of sewage per day into the ground or 5,000 litres into flowing water unless you have a permit.
  • Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Septic System
  • Water Flow Management: Plan landscaping, roof gutters, and surface drains to divert excess water away from the soakaway area to prevent overloading the system.
  • Root Damage Prevention: Keep trees at least 30 metres away from the soakaway to discourage root infiltration.
  • Avoid Non-Flushables: Never flush items like cat litter, disposable nappies, wipes, and cigarette ends, as these can clog your system.
  • Care with Household Chemicals: Overuse of antibacterials and heavy cleaners can destroy the beneficial bacteria in the tank needed for breaking down waste.
  • Grease Management: Avoid pouring grease or oil down the sink as it can clog and damage the soakaway.
  • Protecting the Soakaway
  • Physical Protection: Do not drive over the soakaway, build structures above it, or cover it with impermeable materials like concrete. Gravel and grass are suitable as they allow water to pass through while providing some level of protection and aiding in water absorption.
  • Maintenance: Grass over the soakaway can help manage excess water due to its high absorption rate.

System Longevity

With proper maintenance, a septic system can last between 15 to 40 years, and the soakaway itself can remain functional for over 50 years. Regular inspections and pump-outs are essential to avoid the build-up of solids which can extend beyond the 12-month sludge accumulation limit, potentially ruining the soakaway.

Reducing Water Consumption

Lowering water usage not only aids septic system performance but also reduces water bills. Simple measures include taking shorter showers, using less bathwater, using plugs in sinks, running full loads in dishwashers and washing machines, and considering water-efficient toilet cisterns.

Services Provided by William Gilder Group

We offer an efficient domestic tank clearing service across regions including Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and beyond. We can service everything from individual homes to large estates with minimal disruption. Our fleet, from small tankers for narrow access to larger tankers for open properties, ensures we can meet all our customers’ needs.

Additionally, we provide a 24/7 Emergency Service for issues like blocked drains, flooded cellars, and overflowing septic tanks. We also handle grease trap services.


Maintaining a septic tank is not just about compliance but ensuring the smooth functioning of a system that handles all your wastewater needs efficiently. Regular maintenance, wise water use, and proper disposal habits can help prevent costly repairs and environmental damage. For professional help and more information on our services, please visit William Gilder Group – Domestic Septic Tanks.