HUNTINGDON-based Anglian Water is about to take on responsibility for 13,000 extra miles of private pipes and sewers without be allowed to charge for their maintenance at least until 2014.

Until now the pipes connecting people's toilets, sinks and baths to the sewer system have been the responsibility of homeowners.

But a change in the law means that from October 1 the responsibility for many - although not all - of these will fall to Anglian Water.

The transfer will cover any sections of sewer or pipe that people share with their neighbours and any pipes outside the boundary of people's property that connect them to the sewer network.

Pipes within the boundary of people's property and which serve them alone will remain the responsibility of homeowners.

AW says the switchover will create 40 new jobs, but will mean a small rise in household bills to cover the cost of maintaining a hugely expanded network, although any increase is some years away because it was not included in last year's five-year settlement with the regulator Ofwat, which allowed average bill increases of £28 over the period.

It aligns the sewerage system with responsibility for water pipes.

Spokesman Antony Innes said: "As part of the transfer of private sewers, we estimate that Anglian Water take on responsibility for a further 23,000km of sewers, in addition to our existing 44,000km network. That's a major increase in the length of pipework that we're going to be responsible for - and we're sure it's going to include pipes that are in varying states of repair.

"But until the transfer takes place we won't even know the exact location of the pipework, let alone its condition. What we do know is that, despite the fact that this switchover is being driven by a change in legislation, it should make it simpler for homeowners to know who is responsible for which sections of pipe, and which bits they will remain in charge of.

"We'll be taking on some additional staff to help deal with the workload generated by the transfer, and make sure that customers receive a good quality of service. At this stage, we anticipate that the impact on customer bills will be between 30p and £1 per month, but not until 2014."

Stephen Cook, private sewers programme manager at Anglian Water, said: "The whole point of this move is to make things simpler for everyone. Following the transfer our customers will no longer have to look after the pipes they share with neighbours or the pipes outside of their property boundary.

"By doing all you can to keep the pipes serving your home in good condition, you can make a big difference to the size of any increase."

"That means putting fats, oils and grease into the bin and not into the drains, where they can solidify to cause blockages and flooding. Flushing items such as wipes and nappies down the toilet is also a major cause of blocked pipes and should be avoided.

"If we could stop these sorts of things entering the sewers, we would cut the number of blockages in half, which would reduce our costs and therefore the impacts on customer bills."

He added: "While Anglian Water will be taking on responsibility for maintaining these pipes, there is still very much a shared responsibility to look after them for everyone's benefit."