Access Canberra routinely inspects building sites and assesses feedback and complaints from property owners.

To address any issues found, or to raise awareness of best practice, Access Canberra issues plumber notes.

Email BBS@act.gov.au for more information.

View other industry notes.

Note 31: Plumbing and drainage plans standards

Commercial and residential plumbing plans, drainage plans, water plans and plans involving a referral authority need to be to the following standard and show the following features before they can be certified.

Standards for all plans

  • Acceptable drawing scales are used and drawing is to the standard of AS 1100 Technical drawing.
  • A legend identifies different pipework using the scheme for kinds of pipework in AS 1101 Graphical symbols for general engineering.
  • The plumbing and drainage is designed to AS/NZS 3500 Plumbing Standards.

Plumbing, drainage and water plans features required

  • The block, section, suburb, street number and name.
  • The boundaries of the block of land at a minimum scale of 1:200.
  • A north point.
  • The points of connection to the sewerage system, the water main and the stormwater system.
  • The location of any easements.
  • The outline of the buildings.
  • All drains, distinguishing between new and previously existing pipework and between different pipework and including a legend that identifies the different pipework (A scheme for kinds of pipework appears in AS 1101 Graphical symbols for general engineering; use of the traditional ACT scheme of different colours is also acceptable).
  • The material, size and grade of the pipes to be laid.
  • The type of sanitary fixture installed at each fixture point, including a table of sanitary fixtures that gives the number of each type of fixture and the number of drainage points.
  • Each plan carries the instruction 'All work must be carried out in conformity with the Water and Sewerage Act 2000 and the Water and Sewerage Regulations 2001'.
  • Lessee's name.
  • Certifier's signature.
  • Registration date of plans.
  • The position of the overflow gully.
  • Location and depths of sewer, water and stormwater connection (these measurements must be lettered as close as practicable to the tie as shown on plan).
  • All existing pipework is shown in a way that distinguishes it from new pipework and that distinguishes any pipework that is to be disconnected.
  • A note that the inspection shaft at property line is to be raised to ground level in accordance with Plumbing Note No 3.
  • All required referral authority approvals have been obtained.

Drainage plan features required

  • Drainage lines.
  • Waste lines.
  • All manholes and that they are all numbered.
  • Inspection chambers.
  • Location and numbering of fixtures.
  • Stack points.
  • An indication that plans are new, additional, amended or work-as-executed.
  • A space, 60mm x 10mm, for a plan number to be added in the top right-hand corner.
  • Certifier's signature in bottom right-hand corner.
  • A legend identifying the different pipework.
  • The type and size of pipe material to be used.
  • Any sewer, water supply, electrical or stormwater easement within the block.
  • All proposed pipework delineated and identified in accordance with AS 1101 Graphical symbols for general engineering (use of the existing colour coding scheme for pipework is an acceptable form of delineation).
  • The outline of any building on the site.
  • North point.
  • Schematic isometric drawing of all stacks.
  • The type of stacks and waste lines to be stated on plans (e.g. single stack, fully vented modified, elevated pipe trade waste).
  • Stack identification (e.g.: stack A).
  • A legend of fixtures.

Water plan features required

  • Certification that the layout and number of fire hydrants and fire hose reels is in accordance with the requirements of the ACT Fire Brigade.
  • A list showing the flow rate for water meter sizing.
  • If relevant to the plan, details of backflow prevention devices.
  • All branch lines to the stopcock.
  • For multi-storey buildings, an isometric schematic drawing of all hot and cold water supply lines.

Further information

For further information please contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81 or the Plumbing and drainage inspection page on the Planning website.

Note 30: Submission of Backflow Prevention Testing Reports

Currently there are various ways of submitting Backflow Prevention Testing Reports, over the counter, via email, via post and using an Access Canberra Smartform. Work is currently underway to change the way Backflow Prevention Testing Reports can be submitted. The change in process will mean that all testing reports must be submitted online via a Smartform similar to the one which is currently available on the Access Canberra website Backflow Device Test form.

The new process commenced on Monday 4 May 2015.

Licence Endorsement for Backflow Prevention Testing

Holding a sanitary plumber, water supply plumber or journeyperson plumber licence does not automatically authorise you to perform backflow prevention testing work. In order to undertake this type of work you must have completed the required training, obtained a certificate of attainment - training in backflow prevention and applied to have your licence endorsed for this specific type of work.

To determine if you have the endorsement to undertake backflow prevention testing on your licence please check your licence card to see if the endorsement has been added. If the endorsement is not visible on your card you are not authorised to undertake this work.

To obtain endorsement on your licence, you may make application to the Construction Occupations Registrar by completing the application for a construction occupation licence - individual plumber form - which can be found at Plumber, drainer and gasfitter licensing. Your application must include evidence of you obtaining the statement of attainment - training in backflow prevention. The fee for this endorsement, up until 30 June 2017, is $62.00.

If you are a journeyperson plumber with an endorsement or are applying for an endorsement please note that you may only undertake backflow prevention testing work under the supervision of either a water supply plumber or sanitary plumber who also holds an endorsement for backflow prevention testing work. Submissions of backflow prevention testing reports now include a space for you to include the details of the supervising licensee.

Supervision of Work

Journeypersons who are endorsed to undertake backflow prevention testing must provide details of the person who supervised the work being undertaken. The supervisor must also be endorsed for backflow prevention testing.

Company Licences

Company licences cannot be used as either the tester or the supervisor on a Backflow Prevention Test Reports. Individual licence numbers are required when submitting test reports.

Further information can be obtained from the Customer Service Plumbing team on 6207 6907 or by email to backflow@act.gov.au.

Note 29: Changes to the Submission of Hydraulic Compliance (Minor Works) Certificates

Work is currently underway to change the way Hydraulic Compliance (Minor Works) Certificates can be submitted.

Hard copy Hydraulic Compliance (Minor Works) Certificates and Hydraulic Compliance (Minor Works) books will no longer be available to purchase from Wednesday 1 July 2015 or until stocks last. Hydraulic Compliance (Minor Works) Certificate's will need to be submitted online.

You will still be able to submit hardcopy certificates that have been purchased on or before this date.

Customer Service staff will be available to assist Licensees transition to the new process, particularly for those who are not familiar with on-line forms.

Further information can be obtained from the Customer Service Plumbing team on 6207 6907 or by to email drainageplans@act.gov.au.

Note 28: Changes to the Submission of Certified Commercial Hydraulic Plans

Work is currently underway to change how Certified Commercial Hydraulic Plans are submitted. As of Monday 15 February 2016 certified hydraulic new and additional work plans will be required to be submitted in both a hard and electronic copy. Work as executed and amended plans will only need to be submitted electronically or on disc.

All plan submissions must also be accompanied with a completed Commercial Plumbing and Drainage Registration Form. Certification of commercial hydraulic plans must still comply with the Water and Sewerage Act 2000.

Customer Service staff will be available to assist Hydraulic Plan Certifiers if required.

Further information can be obtained from the Customer Service Plumbing team on 6207 6907 or by to email drainageplans@act.gov.au.

Note 27: Works as executed drainage plans

In May 2013, the practice of the Customer Services team providing a copy of the plumbing inspector's drainage plan to plumbers, drainers and draftsperson/hydraulic consultants ceased.

Single residential buildings (other than work that requires a certified plan)

Licensees are required to have an accurate 'as laid sketch' available on site for an Access Canberra Plumbing Inspector to keep on the relevant building file.

For administrative purposes, new residential buildings still require a preliminary plan to be submitted prior to start of work notices being processed. A "Work as Executed" drainage plan must be submitted before a final inspection can be booked.

All other installations

Certified plans and amended certified plans must be submitted as required by the Water and Sewerage Act 2000.

For amendments that do not require an amended certified plan

Plans shall be marked as installed and be available for an Access Canberra Plumbing Inspector to view while the relevant inspection (stack, water, drainage) takes place.

Certified plans that have alterations to the length and alignment of pipe work only in accordance with section 7B of the Water and Sewerage Regulation 2001 will not require re-certification by a plumbing plan certifier.

Note 26: Uriarra Rural Village Blocks 101-200 - District of Coree

This Plumbing Note must be read in conjunction with the Water and Sewerage Act 2000 and Water and Sewerage Regulations 2001, Plumbing Code of Australia, Australian and New Zealand Standards 3500:2015 Plumbing and drainage Parts 1, 2 and 4. This note sets out the requirements for the design, construction and installation of sewer drainage systems and water supply plumbing for all buildings located in the Uriarra Rural Village.

Inspection of plumbing work

All plumbing work i.e., sanitary plumbing, sanitary drainage, water (rainwater and non-drinking) and fire sprinkler systems must be booked and inspected by a government plumbing inspector before completion.

Drinking water supply

The drinking water supply for Uriarra Village homes is supplied from rainwater tanks located on block. The rainwater tank will supply all water outlets that are to be used for human consumption (drinking), food preparation, food utensil washing or personal hygiene (hand washing, bathing or showering).

Rainwater installation must comply with AS/NZS 3500 Part 1 Section 16.

Pipes and fittings (additional marking and signage)

Water supply system from a rainwater tank shall be clearly marked at intervals not exceeding 500mm with words 'Rainwater' in contrasting colour, in accordance with AS1345. Internal water outlets shall be identified 'Rainwater', or with rainwater tap identification by a green coloured indicator with the letters 'RW'.

External rainwater taps must be clearly identified with a sign or label with the word 'Rainwater'.

Non-drinking water (Bendora raw water)

Non-Drinking water may be supplied for toilet flushing, laundry use, car washing and external uses. Non-Drinking water must not be supplied to water outlets that can be used for human consumption purposes.

Non-drinking water installation must comply with AS/NZS 3500 Part 1 Section 9.

Non-drinking water services and outlets

All pipes shall be identified by purple colour in accordance with AS 2700 being no darker than P24 Jacaranda or P12 Purple and no lighter than P23 Lilac. Where pipes are not integrally coloured purple, identification may be achieved by means of close fitting durable purple coloured sleeving, netting or spirally wrapped tape.

All buried pipes shall have identification tape complying with AS 2648.1 and marked with the following:

  • Contrasting purple lettering installed on top of the pipe, running longitudinally, and fastened to the pipe at not more than 3 meter intervals.
  • The following statement: Non-drinking water do not drink.

Internal fittings

It is not necessary to use purple-coloured fittings.

External hose taps

External hose taps shall comply with the following:

They shall be clearly marked with either a 'warning sign' stating:

  • Warning-not for drinking.
  • Or a prohibition sign in accordance with AS1319.

They shall be of a type that has a removable handle except where the outlet is installed 1200mm or more above fi surface level.

They shall be coloured, powdered coated purple.

They shall have a standard inlet connection thread and a non-standard hose connection outlet (left hand thread).

Non-drinking water supply and Icon Water meter box

Icon Water's water meter, meter box lid and all pipework making up the non-drinking water service to the home must be clearly marked in accordance with this note and AS/NZS 3500.

Automatic fire sprinkler system

Each home will have a home fire sprinkler system this system must be installed to Australian Standard 2118.5. The water supply for the home fire sprinkler system will be supplied from the non-drinking water source (Bendora).

Icon Water's Bendora water supply is to be protected from the dead water in the automatic fire sprinkler system by the installation of a locked isolation valve and dual check valve complying with AS/NZS 2845 located on the service pipe at the meter set.

External pipes (Bushfire zone)

All exposed external piping for water supplies, in Class 1 construction (BCA) or higher areas shall be metal. Plastic pipes located external to the building must be protected to allow a suitable level of Fire-resistance (FRL). Pipes of other materials shall be buried to a depth of at least 300mm below the level of finished ground.

Sewer drainage system

The Uriarra Development is not required to meet drainage separation requirements of the Water and Sewerage Regulation 2001 16A building in separated sanitary drainage for greywater. The drainage system may be a designed as a one pipe gravity drain. Each home will require a complying Overflow Relief Gully (ORG) and one open air vent. The gravity drainage system will drain to an Icon Water owned package pump pit located on the block, this pump pit and pressure rising main is owned and maintained by Icon Water. This tank and pump unit must be accessible to Icon Water for maintenance purposes at all times in accordance with home owners agreement with Icon water.

Further information

For further information please contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81 or the Icon Water Division Technical and Enquiry Line on 6248 3555.

Note 24: Grey water drainage separation and provision for rainwater plumbing (single residential buildings)

This Plumbing Note has been developed and must be read in conjunction with amendments to the Water and Sewerage Regulation 2001, Australian Standards AS/NZS 3500 Plumbing and Drainage- Part 2 Sanitary Plumbing and Drainage sections 2, 3, 4, & 5, Part 1-Water Services section 14 and the Plumbing Code of Australia. This note sets out the requirements for the design, construction and installation of sewer drainage systems and provisional water supply plumbing for single residential buildings to accommodate grey water reuse and rainwater supply.

This plumbing note covers all single residential homes (please see definitions over page) and extensions commenced on or after 1 January 2005 in the ACT.

This Plumbing Note does not apply to Multi developments of 3 units or more, but the rainwater provision of this Note may be applied to Multi developments if the developer or designer wishers to incorporate this provision into the complex.

Grey water sewer systems (drainage separation)

The sewerage drainage system of single residential homes must be installed to allow the wastewater fixture or fixtures (listed in the definitions except a kitchen sink) to drain to the outside of the building line separate to the black or soil drainage system. This waste pipe must be installed to allow crossover of the main sewer line to allow the grey water piping to gravitate to a below ground holding vessel for reuse of grey water in the future.

The drainage system to the house or building must be protected from sewerage surcharge by the means of a complying overflow relief gully (ORG).

  • Sewer drainage from sanitary fixtures located in a garage area and the upstairs of a single residential building will not be required to comply with this plumbing note.
  • All plumbing fixtures discharging to a sewer pump well, compliance to this plumbing note is not required.

Rainwater supply plumbing (provisional points)

Toilet cistern

The requirements to supply homes with rainwater reuse facilities for future, the home will incorporate provisional rainwater pipes, capped and sealed. These rainwater points must be installed to all toilet cisterns. If the toilet cistern will allow connection of a second inlet valve, the rainwater point is to fit below the second inlet entry to the cistern and be finished with a cap and flange of a chrome plated type.

Washing machine point

A third washing machine point for rainwater, capped and sealed, must be installed to allow the use of rainwater in the laundry facility for future use. This point must be left to allow for easy connection of a tap or cock and finished with a chrome plated cap and flange.

External provisional point

The external rainwater provisional point must be left at an external position of the building to allow for easy connection of rainwater piping from a rainwater tank to serve the toilets and laundry facility. The rainwater piping for toilet flushing and laundry facilities must be combined and have one external connection point, this must be located no higher than 1 metre above finished ground level and to the rear or side of the house. This provisional point must be sealed with a chrome plated cap and flange.

Homes supplied with a commercial rainwater toilet flushing unit or units, will not be required to comply with this Plumbing Note for the connection of the rainwater provincial point (toilet cistern only).

With the installation of this rainwater unit it is still a requirement to install a provisional rainwater point to the laundry facility for a washing machine cock.

Definitions

‘Single residential building’ means, a detached house or a building making up no more than 2 residences, and includes:

  • a part of such a building; and,
  • an adjunct to such a building (adjunct means an addition).

‘Separated greywater waste fixtures’ means a:

  • bath, including a spa bath; or,
  • hand basin other than a kitchen sink; or,
  • laundry tub; or,
  • shower; or,
  • floor waste for a room that contains no sanitary fixtures other than those mentioned in the above.

‘Greywater point’ means a point located outside and clear of any building or structure and will allow wastewater (greywater) to flow via gravity to a holding vessel for reuse. This point must be installed to allow the greywater line to move over or above the main sewer drain.

‘Greywater disposal system’ means a holding vessel or reservoir that is, or can be used to store greywater or a pipe or conduit that is, or can be, used to discharge grey water into the environment.

‘Rainwater supply service’ means water supply plumbing that can connect a rainwater supply to a:

  • cistern tap point; or,
  • washing machine tap point.

‘Rainwater washing machine point’ means, a capped provisional point left for future rainwater connection of a washing machine cock. Cap and flange of a chrome plated type.

‘Rainwater connection point’ means a point located external to the building allowing for connection of future rainwater supply for a second toilet inlet connection and or washing machine cock. This point is to be formed by a cap and flange of a chrome plated type.

‘Rainwater toilet cistern point’ means a capped provisional point left for future connection of a second inlet valve for rainwater to the toilet cistern. This point is to be located on the left-hand side and formed by a cap and flange of a chrome plated type.

Note no galvanized caps or plugs will be permitted to form a provisional sealed point.

Further information

For further information refer to the Water fact sheets on the ACT Health website.

Note 22: Plumbing solutions for multi-unit developments (excluding multi-storey developments)

General

This Plumbing Note has been developed (and must be read in conjunction with) the Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA), Australian Standards AS/NZS 3500:2015 Part 1 (Water Services) Section 17 and Part 2 (Sanitary Plumbing and Drainage) Section 14.

This note sets out the requirements for the design, construction, and installation, of Multi-Unit Developments of 20 or more residential buildings, up to 3 storeys in height, on a single block and section, this note also applies to 3 or more residential units (sewer installations). Multi Storey Developments greater than 3 storeys are not part of this Plumbing Solution.

Background

Before April 2004, the in-ground water plumbing pipes and sanitary drainage lines on the lease of large Multi-Unit developments were designed to AS/NZS 3500 1996/98. These services are generally owned by the Body Corporate and in most cases are independent from the ACTEW Corporation utility mains. Applying the requirements of AS/NZS 3500 1996/98 to the main sewer and water lines may result in a lower standard of service to consumers.

Multi-unit developments 3 to 19

(Additional requirements)

Developments of 3 to 19 units on a single block, the common water supply and sewerage services must comply with AS/NZS 3500 2015 Part 1 & 2. In unit developments of 3 or more residential buildings on a single block, provision shall be made for:

  • A sanitary drain inspection shaft located at the unit entitlement boundary or as close as possible. (Complying with Plumbing Note 3).
  • One complying Overflow relief gully AS/NZS 3500.2 clause 4.6.6.
  • Additional overflow relief for sewerage surcharge for each unit, with a minimum 100mm separation for all additional overflow relief gullies.
  • An open air upstream vent to each unit.

Multi-unit developments 20 units or more

Internal sanitary drains

In developments of 20 units or more, the common sanitary drainage pipe, main sewer lines (from the point of connection to each individual unit allotment inspection shaft) may be constructed to the Sewerage Code of Australia or AS/NZS 3500.2 2015.2. All sanitary drainage work within each individual allotment or unit entitlement must comply with AS/NZS 3500.22015.

Internal sanitary drains for all developments of 3 or more units must also include:

  • Three or more units must have provision for an inspection shaft, overflow relief gully and upstream venting at each unit allotment or entitlement constructed in accordance with the new provisions of AS/NZS 3500.2 2015. Sewer drainage from each individual unit must flow to the sewer main line via the inspection shaft installed at the unit entitlement boundary. (Inspection shaft complying with PN 3).
  • The unit complex located on an individual block and section requires one complying overflow relief gully (see AS/NZS 3500.2 2015 clause 4.6.6), provided this provision has been complied with all additional gullies at each individual unit may be installed with a lesser separation distance of 100mm. (see AS/NZS 3500.2 2015 clause 4.6.6.5 notes).
  • Sewer mains of 150mm or greater, must comply with Plumbing note 19 "Requirements for on-site sewer manholes". Maintenance shafts on main lines must provide provision for drain cleaning.
  • At each individual unit an open upstream vent must be installed.

Internal water supply

In developments of 20 units or more, the common plumbing distribution system pipes (from the water meter to the point of connection to each individual unit) may be constructed to the Water Reticulation Code of Australia or AS/NZS AS3500.1 2015. All plumbing works within each individual allotment or unit entitlement must comply with AS/NZS 3500.1 2015.

However, should the Developer elect to design or install the whole complex to AS/NZS 3500.1 2015 for units of 20 or more the following additional water requirements will apply:

  • Division of the development: The development shall be divided into zones where the number of allotments within a zone affected by any shut-off at the main lines of the water service shall not exceed 40. The dividing or isolation valves that are fitted to the main line itself shall be at intervals not exceeding 300 meters.
  • Ring mains and flushing points: To maintain circulation of water, the main lines of the water service shall form a ring main or be provided, at surface level, with flushing points at any dead end of the main line of the water service.
  • Fire services: Fire services shall be provided in accordance with the fire authority requirements. External fire hydrants shall be located in accordance with AS 2419.1.

Multi-unit developments utility requirements

Icon Water generally permit only one water connection to the ACTEW Corporation network mains. Application must be made to Icon Water for all new, additional, relocated or modified water connections. The location and structure of meter installations must comply with ACTEW standards.

Icon Water generally permit only one sewerage connection to the ACTEW Corporation network mains. Application must be made to Icon Water for all new, relocated or modified sewer connections.

Note 20: Drainage ties and building demolition

This note has been prepared to clarify requirements for the sealing of drainage ties as specified in the ACT Demolition Code of Practice as well as Icon Water's, Water and Sewerage Services Installation Rules.

What is required?

Demolition of a building is defined as building work under the Building Act 2004 and building approval is required. As part of that approval, all electricity, gas, water and sewer services must be disconnected in a way that meets the Authority's requirements.

When a building is to be demolished and the drains need to be sealed off, Icon Water require the drain to be sealed within 3 metres of the tie point to prevent damage to the sewer infrastructure.

To seal off a tie, a minor works permit shall be taken out by the Advanced Sanitary Drainer carrying out the disconnection. In these instances, when Access Canberra is notified of the seal-off, the work will be inspected so that the plans can be marked off.

To ensure this happens, Access Canberra will not accept a notification of commencement of drainage work for the new work and therefore will inspect or pass the new drains unless the seal-off of the old drains has been inspected and signed off.

Reconstruction

When the drains are re-laid after the demolition, the new property sewer must be connected to the original tie point. This ensures that the new drains do not rely on old drainage that may be broken cracked or blocked. The new property sewer must comply with AS/NZS 3500.2 (Sanitary Plumbing and Drainage) and Plumbing Note 3 (Inspection shafts at property boundaries).

Note 19: Requirements for on-site sewer manholes

The Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA) is adopted and forms part of the Water and Sewerage Act 2000. Part C2 of the PCA specifies the objectives and the performance requirements related to the installation of sanitary drainage systems. AS/NZS 3500.2: Plumbing and drainage Part 2 Sanitary plumbing and drainage is a 'deemed to satisfy' document listed in Part C2 of the PCA.

What is required?

AS/NZS 3500.2 Clause 4.7 sets out the requirements for the location of Inspection Openings except where manholes are provided. Clause 4.8 sets out the requirements in regards to size and construction of manholes. The Australian Capital Territory's Appendices of the PCA contains an addition to these requirements. These additions are set out below.

Manholes shall be installed on a property sewer at the following locations:

  • At the beginning and end of any line DN 150mm or larger.
  • At any change in direction on a line DN150mm or larger.
  • At the junction of two pipes both of which are DN150mm or larger.
  • At the confluence of three or more pipes where any of the pipes are DN150mm or larger.
  • At intervals of not more than 100m on any line that is 150mm or larger.

Note 3: Inspection shafts at property boundaries

The Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA) is adopted and forms part of the Water and Sewerage Act 2000. Part C2 of the PCA specifies the objectives and the performance requirements related to the installation of sanitary drainage systems. AS/NZS 3500.2: Plumbing and drainage Part 2 Sanitary plumbing and drainage is a 'deemed to satisfy' document listed in Part C2 of the PCA.

All new property connections shall include an Inspection Shaft in accordance with AS/NZS 3500.2 requirements. Where the difference in elevation between the property drain and the sewer tie warrants a graded jump-up, they shall be installed as below. The Inspection Shaft shall be located immediately upstream of the Inspection Opening which must be as close to the property boundary as possible or adjacent to the tie.

Jump-ups shall rise at an angle of 45°unless constricted by space or specified to be vertical. The base of vertical Jump-ups must be 2 x 45°bends separated by a length of pipe twice the diameter of the pipe and not one 90° bend. In trafficable areas (e.g., driveways), a trafficable lid must be provided over the shaft.

Avoid electrical shocks when working with water supply mains

Electrical shocks are a risk for plumbers when they change water meters and other equipment in residential and commercial buildings.

Because of the risk, it is essential to use bridging devices such as heavy duty jumper leads to bridge plumbing gaps:

  • in a metallic water pipe; and,
  • when in contact with the soil when connecting older metered metallic water pipes to new street mains plastic water pipes.

How faults occur

Installing plastic water pipes on the street mains side of the water meter reduces the length of conductive water pipe connected to an electrical installation main earthing system. When plastic water pipe is added, it may introduce insulated sections in the water mains network. This creates a water mains system that becomes ineffective as an electrical earth return pathway to a local substation, resulting in a higher shock risk. This electrical shock risk is higher in residences in older Canberra suburbs built in the 1960s and 1970s where original pipes were copper and cast iron.

With the transition from metallic to plastic mains water reticulation, the risk of shock is greater at a temporary plumbing gap during the removal and replacement of a water meter or valve. A shock risk may exist at this changeover point if an electrical fault develops at the same address.

It is common for neutral wiring to become ineffective due to the many overhead and underground cable joints that exist in the Evoenergy network. The electrical installation's main earth and neutral bond are made at the main neutral link within the residence or commercial switchboards. This bond in older suburbs may still rely on metallic water pipes for electrical earthing.

Danger of electric shock

If the service neutral wire is faulty, any fault current will be conveyed to the substation via the earthing system and nearby water mains rather than by the service neutral. As a result, voltages up to 240 volts can develop between the metallic water pipe, other reachable buried metal, damp electrically conductive surfaces or exposed soil.

When the metallic water pipe is in contact with soil and clay along its entire length, the resistance to electrical current flowing back to the substation is low and the voltage is proportionally lower and less severe if contacted across hands or hand to feet.

When electrical current from a faulty neutral condition is conveyed to metallic piping but is interrupted by the introduction of new plastic piping and there is no earthing electrode to convey fault current to the soil mass, a dangerous shock risk may exist to any person:

  • making simultaneous contact with separated hands or feet or a hand and foot, to such metallic piping and the soil mass; or,
  • who makes a combined hand or leg contact across any breach or gap in metallic water piping.

If the metallic water pipe system within a premises is continuous, it provides an effective contact with the earth and clay mass. If earth leakage current exists within the house's wiring and the metallic water pipes are no longer electrically continuous through recent changeovers to plastic piping, it is probable that an electrical shock risk could arise. For example, when a tap connected to what was a continuous metallic water pipe earth system becomes ineffective, it is more likely that a voltage difference will arise between the tap and the exposed parts of household drainage. A fault current can flow through a person who is making simultaneous contact with the energised tap handle and any drainage point.

The combination of very small electrical current and voltage can cause dangerous electrical shock, particularly in damp situations. For plumbers, the higher the fault current and voltage, the greater risk of electrocution if in contact across gaps in metal piping and surrounding soil.

A licensed electrician, with the help of Evoenergy's network operator, can detect and remove electricity on plumbing piping generally due to a neutral fault.

Reduce the risk

Before starting plumbing work, test the metallic plumbing system with a quality multimeter (on the 240 volt alternating current range). Keep your hands and body covered and dry. Connect one probe to a long insulated screwdriver to the surrounding earth mass and the other probe to both sides of the metallic piping gap. Finally with the probes, test across the pipe gap.

If the test reveals a voltage more than 5 volts alternating current and it is a constant value it is deemed a dangerous voltage. Please note that voltages in the low range of 240 volts are also a serious shock risk.

Plumbers are trained during their apprenticeship years to connect bonding cables, typically battery jumper leads, across the water pipe point to be breached before all work is started.

Take care not to touch the metal piping and other adjacent structural metallic parts when connecting a plastic water pipe or insulated meter or standard fittings to any part of the plumbing.

All construction trades are warned that installed metallic water pipe work may have an electrical hazard if a tradesperson makes physical contact across gaps in metallic pipes and to adjacent structural metal or damp surfaces.

The water pipe gap must be tested prior to the start of work. Call a licensed electrician to isolate supply. The licensed electrician must contact Evoenergy and inform them of the electrical risk.

To maintain a safe electrical installation, reinstate and paint all electrical earth bonds that were temporarily removed from metallic piping during plumbing after work is completed. Plumbers must always reconnect a main earthwire to an earth electrode using the same safety principles applied to a pipe breach.

Warning for older homes

In central Canberra residences, the metallic water pipe has a main earth connection at the point of mains water entry into the residence unless it has been significantly refurbished. This is one of the essential connections for the electrical earthing system.

This system is now out-dated and all installations that are upgraded due to building refurbishment or extension must have an earth stake (electrode) installed whenever new circuits are created or an electrical installation switchboard replaced.

Plumbers may need to engage a licenced electrician to explain to their customer who is having plumbing upgrades, that changes to waterpipes may affect the electrical installation and its main earthing system. The plumber's electrician should recommend to the homeowner that the inclusion of a safety switch (residual current device (RCD) or safety switch) on existing electrical installation light and power circuits improves electrical safety.

However, electrical safety depends on modern installation earthing principles and practice.

Installation of toilet seat douche outlets and flexible hoses

Overview

This information outlines the installation requirements for any toilet seat douche outlets attached to a toilet pan, or the provisional water points provided for the potential connection of douche outlets or flexible hoses adjacent to toilets and any backflow prevention requirements.

All plumbing and drainage work conducted onsite in the ACT is to comply with the requirements of the Water and Sewerage Act 2000 and Regulation 2001, the Plumbing Code of Australia [PCA] and AS3500.

The PCA specifies plumbing materials and products that need to be approved for use in Australia. The requirements are designed to protect consumers from poor quality or unsafe products, ensuring your personal safety and investment are protected. This requirement is supported by the Water Mark certification scheme. The Water Mark certification trademark indicates products approved for the use in water supply, sewerage, plumbing and drainage. A Toilet Douche Seat would require this approval.

Toilet douche seat installation

Previous to the adoption of the Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA) 2022 on the 1st of May 2023, bidet douche seats were required to be installed with an additional high hazard backflow prevention device.

Specification 41, which is part of the PCA, lists the levels of hazard and backflow protection required under S41C4.

Bidet douche seats and those integral to toilet pans are covered under Specification 41C4(3)(f).

(3) The following are High Hazard for the purpose of individual protection:

  1. Chlorinators
  2. Colls and jackets in heat exchangers, in unsealed and toxic environments
  3. Steam calorifiers
  4. Steam boilers
  5. Antibiotic injectors (agricultural)
  6. Bidets and toilet douche seats where the outlet in any position is not 25 mm above the overflow level of the pan.

The high hazard backflow prevention device can be an integral part of the product or installed separately on the water supply inlet.

The suitability of Air Gaps (AG) and Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers (AVB) has changed in AS/NZS 3500.1:2001(Water Services) and these no-testable devices are now suitable for high hazard protection against back siphonage only.

Toilet douche seats manufactured with integral Air Gaps or Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers and Watermarked certified under Watermark Technical Standard WMTS-051:2021 are able to be installed without the need for any additional backflow protection.

Verification on whether a douche seat is certified under WMTS-051:2021 can be sought by using the Watermark database on the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) website: WaterMark Home | WaterMark (abcb.gov.au).

Products with no integral backflow protection and not certified under WMTS-051:2021 must be installed with adequate backflow protection.

Flexible hoses adjacent to toilets

Where a water connection point is installed adjacent to a toilet for the purpose of supplying water to a flexible hose, a ‘high hazard’ RPZ backflow device must be installed upstream of the hose connection. The device must comply with AS/NZS 2845.1 or AS 2845.2.

Further information

For further information please contact Access Canberra on 6207 6907 or 6207 6261 or view the Home Modification Information Clearinghouse website.

Fire sprinkler work - Licensing requirements

Anybody working on the installation of a fire sprinkler system must either be:

  • licensed
  • a trainee under the supervision of a licensee with a training arrangement in place.

Read the Fire sprinkler work - Licensing requirements [PDF 239 KB].