News & Updates

Guide to Soakwell Maintenance

PBR Plumbing
Published May 15, 2024

Our Guide to Soakwell Maintenance: Enhancing Your Stormwater Management

As part of the role of being a commercial property manager, understanding and maintaining your stormwater system, particularly soakwells, is crucial. These systems play a key role in preventing water logging and property damage, particularly during heavy rainfall. 

This guide is designed to provide commercial property managers, strata managers, and facility managers with a comprehensive understanding of soakwell systems, the importance of their maintenance, and how PBR Plumbing’s specialised soakwell services can help ensure their efficient operation.

As the wet season approaches in June, it’s crucial to be proactive in ensuring that your soakwells are in optimal condition, rather than waiting to address issues as they arise.

What are soakwells?

Soakwells are underground tanks that help manage stormwater runoff by collecting excess water and dispersing it into the surrounding soil, therefore preventing flooding.

Soakwells are commonly made from materials like concrete or polypropylene, and are essential for effective stormwater management in commercial settings. Their capacity and material can vary depending on the property size and local environmental conditions.

How do soakwells work?

Soakwells are integrated into a property’s stormwater drainage system. They are connected to downpipes from roofs and other drainage areas, capturing runoff water and slowly releasing it into the ground, reducing stress on public drainage systems and preventing the risks of erosion and water damage to the property structure.

Where are stormwater soakwells commonly located?

Stormwater soakwells are typically installed in strategic locations on commercial properties to effectively manage and disperse rainwater runoff and prevent flooding. Here are some common areas where soakwells might be located:

  1. Under carparks: A common location for soakwells is beneath parking areas, where they can collect runoff from large, impenetrable surfaces.
  2. Landscaped areas: Soakwells are often placed in landscaped or grassy areas to facilitate the infiltration of water back into the soil, benefiting the vegetation and reducing surface runoff.
  3. Near building foundations: Installing soakwells near buildings but at a safe distance from foundations helps prevent water from pooling around structures and causing water damage or foundation issues.
  4. Along driveways and walkways: Placing soakwells along these areas ensures that runoff from paths and driveways is quickly absorbed, reducing water pooling and slip hazards.
  5. Low-lying areas: Soakwells are sometimes installed in natural low points on a property where water tends to collect, helping to redistribute water more evenly across the terrain.

The specific placement of soakwells on a commercial property can depend on several factors, including local soil conditions, the property’s topography, the expected volume of stormwater, and local building regulations. Proper strategic placement and installation are crucial for the efficiency and longevity of the soakwell system, in tandem with their proper regular maintenance and repair when required.

How many soakwells do I need? Determining your soakwell needs

The number and capacity of soakwells required for a property depend on a couple of factors:

  • Property size: Larger areas generally require more soakwells to manage increased water runoff.
  • Local rainfall data: Areas with higher precipitation levels might need additional or larger soakwells to cope with the increased water volume.

Property managers should assess their current and future needs based on these factors, considering potential changes in property use and local climate trends.

What are some common soakwell issues and how are they resolved?

Soakwells can face issues such as blockages, overflows, and general wear and tear. Signs of problems include visible overflow during rains, slow drainage, or water pooling. Regular inspections and maintenance can help identify these issues early. 

Basic troubleshooting steps include checking for visible blockages at the inlet and outlets or ensuring downpipes are not disconnected or damaged.

What causes a soakwell blockage?

Soakwell blockages can be caused by several factors, primarily related to the accumulation of materials that impede water flow or the structural issues of the soakwell itself. Here are some common causes:

  1. Debris accumulation: Leaves, twigs, and other organic matter can wash into soakwells, especially if gutter guards and drain grates are not regularly cleaned. Over time, this debris can build up and clog the system.
  2. Silt and sediment: Fine particles like sand and silt can accumulate in the soakwell, particularly if the surrounding soil is prone to erosion. These sediments can settle at the bottom of the soakwell and gradually fill it up, reducing its capacity to absorb water.
  3. Incorrect installation: If soakwells are not installed correctly, they may not function as intended. For example, soakwells that are too small for the area they serve, or improperly connected to the stormwater drainage system, can become overwhelmed and blocked.
  4. Lack of maintenance: Regular professional maintenance is crucial to prevent blockages. Without periodic cleaning to remove accumulated debris and sediment, soakwells can become less effective or completely blocked.
  5. Collapsed structures: Over time, the structural integrity of a soakwell can degrade, particularly if it is made from materials susceptible to corrosion or damage from soil pressure. A collapsed or damaged soakwell can lead to blockages as parts of its structure impede water flow.
  6. Rusted soakwell grate lid: Over time, soakwell grate lids can rust and start to disintegrate, causing larger pieces of debris to enter the soakwell, potentially risking a blockage.
  7. Root intrusion: Tree roots can grow into and around soakwells in search of water, especially during dry periods. These roots can crack soakwell walls or grow into and block pipes leading to and from the soakwell.

Addressing these causes often requires a combination of preventative maintenance and timely intervention when issues are detected. Regular inspections and cleaning are essential to ensure soakwells function properly and efficiently.

unblock soakwell

Image: A soakwell blocked with accumulated sand, as detected through CCTV camera.

How to unblock a soakwell

Substantial soakwell blockages or damage necessitate professional expertise. Professional commercial plumbers possess the necessary tools and knowledge to thoroughly inspect the soakwell and address the underlying cause of the problem, whether it’s a leak or a deep-rooted blockage.

Signs that professional help is needed include persistent overflows, sinkholes around soak wells, or if the soakwell has not been inspected in over a year.

soakwell maintenance and repair

How we approach soakwell maintenance at PBR Plumbing

We take a meticulous approach to soakwell maintenance and repair at PBR Plumbing, and have experience in working with various commercial soakwells across Perth. 

This is an example of what our process involves:

  1. Conduct a CCTV camera inspection of the stormwater system to identify potential blockages and debris buildup in wells and pipes.
  2. Locate all soakwells and draft a site plan, labelling the wells from eg. 1 to 8.
  3. Document any issues, labelling them correspondingly (e.g., 1 – 8) on the site plan for the client’s reference.
  4. Provide a quotation for cleaning any buildup in the soakwells or stormwater pipework.
  5. Clean the soakwells using a large commercial vacuum unit, which involves cleaning the existing soakwell liner to the bottom and replacing it with fresh sand or rock if necessary.
  6. Clean interconnecting pipework using jetting or a drain machine cutter.
  7. Identify and replace any faulty or corroded stormwater soakwell lids as necessary.

Routine maintenance every 12-18 months is recommended to maintain system efficiency and prevent costly repairs.

soakwell lid replacement

Case study – soakwell lid replacement in Como

Our recent job in Como involved us visiting a unit complex to replace a rusted soakwell lid which was inefficient for draining water. Our solution was to replace the existing rusted soakwell lid with a new raised galvanised grate, adjusted to match the finished paving level. This upgrade will prevent future corrosion and facilitate easier inspections of the soakwell.

Our process for this job involved:

  • Excavation of the existing lid and its removal from the site.
  • Installation of the new raised lid.
  • Backfilling and compacting the new lid into position as needed.
  • Repaving around the new raised grate using the existing pavers on site.

soakwell covered by pavers

Initial soakwell, covered by pavers.

soakwell repair and removal of pavers

Upon inspection, it was revealed that the soakwell grate lid had rusted and partially disintegrated, allowing for larger pieces of debris to pass through.

soakwell lid removal

We removed the old soakwell lid.

soakwell lid installation

We installed a new raised soakwell lid.

new soakwell lid

We repaved using existing pavers around the new soakwell lid to ensure it was safely level with surrounding pavers, and seamlessly blended in.

Safeguard your soakwell system before the wet season hits

Maintaining your soakwells is not just about preventing flooding or water damage; it’s about ensuring the longevity and safety of your property’s infrastructure. Regular professional maintenance is the key to achieving this. 

If you are a strata property or commercial property manager, we encourage you to reach out to our professional team at PBR Plumbing to discuss your soakwell maintenance needs. We work collaboratively with you to schedule a comprehensive inspection and maintenance service with our team. 

Through this proactive approach, you can enhance your stormwater management system, potentially saving significant costs and disruptions in the future. Let PBR Plumbing help you keep your property safe, dry, and efficiently managed.



commercial plumber - PBR Plumbing