Tree Roots Perth

Western Water is always working to prevent sewage spills that can affect our environment and waterways, as well as pose a public health problem.

Most sewer blockages and spills are caused by tree roots finding their way into our sewer pipes.

Trees are a big part of our suburban and semi-rural lifestyle, providing shade, beauty and habitat for our wildlife.

But what’s happening underground can be a different story. Some trees and plants have vigorous root systems that can cause sewer blockages and overflows if they have been planted too close to sewer and stormwater pipes.

What happens when a sewer overflows?

When a sewer pipe becomes blocked, sewage backs up and can overflow. 

If the blockage is on your property this can mean sewage overflowing into your toilet, bathroom or laundry. Other overflows can occur into waterways or onto parks or footpaths.

How tree roots can block pipes

A tree’s root system will seek out the nutrients and water needed for its survival.

If there is a tiny fracture or gap in your sewer or stormwater pipe (commonly from ground movement or pipe joins), fine hair-like roots can penetrate the cracks looking for moisture.

Once inside, these tiny roots can grow into a mass, blocking and damaging the pipes and causing messy sewage spills.

Who is responsible for repairing damaged pipes?

If roots have blocked or damaged sewer pipes on your property, you are responsible for any repairs. A licensed plumber can clear pipes, and give you advice on the best way to stop the problem recurring.

This may involve repairing the pipes, and/or removing the tree. Tree roots that have entered sewerage pipes once are likely to do so again. Cutting back roots can actually encourage them to grow, in the same way  pruning a tree encourages it to grow back.

What can I do to avoid pipe damage?

The best way is to prevent tree roots from getting into the sewer and storm-water system in the first place.

If you are planning on planting a tree:

  • First, find out where the sewer pipes are located on your property. Ring Western Water on 1300 650 422 for a property sewer plan. A small fee applies.
  • Then choose your tree carefully. Ask your local nursery for advice on the root structure and habits of the trees you are considering. Plants and trees indigenous to your area are often a good choice, as they are adapted to local conditions. There is a list of potential problem trees in below
  • Finally, choose your planting site, avoiding areas on or close to sewer pipes. As a general rule tree roots extend about 1.5 times the length of the tree’s branches. It is a good idea to get professional advice on garden design where possible.

Some problem species to be avoided:

Bamboo Phyllostchus species
Cape Virgilla Virgilia oroboides
Figs Ficus species
Elms     Ulmus species
Golden Ash    Fraxinus excelsior 'Aurea'
Golden Wattle    Acacia pycnantha
Gum Trees    Eucalytus species
Hibiscus    Hibiscus species
Lilly Pilly    Acmena smithii
Mirror Plant    Coprosma repens
Peppercorn  Tree Schinus molle
Plane Tree    Platanus species
Pine Trees    Pinus species
Poplars Populus species
Prickly Paperbark Melaleuca styphelioides
Silver Birch    Betula pendula
Weeping Lilly Pilly  Eugenia ventenatii
Willows Salix species

Suitable species - no closer than 2m

Box-Leaved Wattle Acacia buxifolia
Crepe Myrtle  Lagerstroemia indica
Crimson Bottlebrush Callistemon citrinus 
Emu Bush  Eremophila longifolia
Evergreen Spindle Tree Euomymus japonica
Flowering Apple  Malus species
Heath Banksia  Banksia occidentalis
Jacaranda Jacranda mimosifolia
Kurrajong Brachychiton populneus
Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus
Liquidambar Liquidambar styraciflua
Long-leaved Box  Eucalyptus goniocalyx
Old Man Saltbush  Atriplex nummularia
‘Rosea’ Pink Marri Eucalyptus calophylla
White Silver Birch Betula pendula (B.alba)

Suitable species - no closer than 4m

Arglye Apple  Eucalyptus cinerea
Bracelet Honeymyrtle  Melaleuca armillaris
Chinese Wisteria  Wisteria sinensis
Golden Wreath Wattle  Acacia saligna
Pagoda Tree  Sophora Japonica
Prickly Paperbark  Melaelaleuca stypheliooides
Silver Birch  Betula pendula
Smooth Barked Apple Angophora costata
Rowan Sorbus aucuparia
Weeping Myall or Boree Acacia pendula
Willow Myrtle Agonis flexuosa

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