What’s the Difference Between a Sewer Line and a Water Line?

As a homeowner, there will likely be times when you have to deal with the water coming into or going out of your home. That means familiarizing yourself with your water and sewer lines. Though both are part of your home’s plumbing system, they’re two very different networks that perform two completely different — but equally important — functions.

Learn what each system does, some of the common problems you may encounter, and what to do when issues arise. 

What is a Water Line?

A water line delivers clean, fresh water to your home. It ensures a seamless flow of potable water to your faucets, showers, and appliances. This network of pipes provides the water you use every day for cooking, bathing, and other household tasks.

Common Water Line Problems

Water line issues can disrupt the seamless flow of clean water into your home. Leaks, clogs, and other problems may arise and affect your daily activities.


Leaks are small cracks or holes in the water line caused by aging pipes, corrosion, or shifting soil. If you notice unexplained increases in water bills or water pooling in the yard, seek professional plumbing assistance to repair or replace the damaged section.

Low Water Pressure

Weak water flow from taps, especially in multiple areas, is a sign of reduced water force from faucets. As this is usually caused by sediment buildup or pipe corrosion, you can try clearing the clogs yourself to fix the problem.

Water Discoloration

Sometimes, you may notice a brown or red tint in your tap water. This happens when there’s corrosion or rust in the water pipes. You’ll need to flush your system, install a water filtration system, or consult a professional plumber for a thorough inspection.

Frozen Pipes

In frigid temperatures and without adequate insulation, the water lines may freeze. Try using gentle heat from a hair dryer to thaw the pipes. Before winter, insulate vulnerable sections of pipes and keep your home’s indoor temperature above freezing.

Burst Pipes

A rupture in the water line can be caused by freezing or excessive water pressure. If you see water gushing or water damage to walls or ceilings, don’t hesitate. Immediately turn off your water line and call an emergency plumber.

How to Shut Off Your Water Line

In case of an emergency, like a burst pipe, you should know where your water main is and how to shut it off. Begin by locating the main shut-off valve, typically situated near the water meter or where the water line enters your home. 

This valve is commonly found on an exterior wall, in a basement, crawl space, or utility room. Turn the valve clockwise using a water key, pliers, or a wrench until it is fully closed. To confirm the shut-off’s success, turn on a faucet inside your home; if no water flows, you’ve effectively closed the valve. 

Some appliances, like water heaters, may have individual shut-off valves. Locate these valves on the water line leading to the specific appliance and turn them clockwise to cut off water to that appliance.

Regularly check and maintain the water line shut-off to ensure accessibility and functionality. Periodically inspect the shut-off for signs of rust or corrosion, and make sure the valve turns easily. Familiarizing yourself with these steps allows you to respond swiftly and minimize potential damage during an emergency.

What is a Sewer Line?

A sewer line is a pipe system responsible for carrying used water and waste away from your home to either a municipal sewage system or a septic tank. It ensures the efficient disposal of water from sinks, showers, toilets, and various household appliances.

Wastewater from your household, laden with contaminants and impurities, is transported from your living space to prevent potential health hazards. In urban areas, the sewer line connects to the municipal sewage system. In rural settings, it may lead to a septic tank for treatment and disposal.

Common Sewer Line Problems

Dealing with common sewer line problems is an inevitable aspect of homeownership, impacting the proper functioning of your plumbing system. Recognizing these issues early on can save you from potential disasters.


Blockages occur when solid materials or debris accumulate within the sewer line, impeding the flow of wastewater. Signs include slow drainage, gurgling sounds, or foul odors emanating from drains.

Tree Root Infiltration

Tree roots seeking moisture can infiltrate sewer lines, causing cracks and blockages. Indicators include recurrent clogs, slow drains, or noticeable changes in the water level in toilets.

Pipe Corrosion

Over time, sewer pipes can corrode, leading to leaks and structural degradation. Warning signs may be foul smells, soggy spots in the yard, or inexplicable increases in water bills.

Bellied Pipes

Sewer lines may develop low spots or bellies, causing waste to accumulate. Watch out for repeated drain clogs, slow drainage, or an unpleasant odor near the affected area.

Leaks and Cracks

Leaks and cracks in sewer lines can result from shifting soil, freezing temperatures, or general wear and tear. Telltale signs include lush grass patches, foul odors, or damp spots in the yard.

Clogs from Foreign Objects

Foreign objects, grease, or hygiene products can lead to stubborn clogs in sewer lines. Symptoms include slow drainage, gurgling sounds, or water backup in drains.

Can I Shut Off My Home’s Sewer Line?

While you can control the water supply to your home by shutting off the main water valve, the sewer line functions differently. It operates passively, allowing gravity to move wastewater away. As such, there isn’t a direct shut-off valve for the sewer line within your home.

If you’re experiencing issues with your sewer line, such as clogs or leaks, contact a professional plumber who can assess the situation, identify the cause of the issue, and provide the necessary repairs or maintenance. Regular maintenance and proper usage of plumbing fixtures can help prevent common sewer line problems and contribute to a smoothly functioning wastewater disposal system.

Call John C. Flood for All Water or Sewer Line Problems

Wherever you are in the DC Metro area, make John C. Flood your first call for all water or sewer issues in your home. Don’t wait until your minor water or sewer line issues become a major problem. Contact John C. Flood today for water or sewer line inspections and maintenance by calling the number at

Are you already noticing problems? We’re available 7 days a week and don’t inflate our prices for emergencies. 

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