Sewer Backup Prevention & Policy

Property owners have specific responsibilities related to the maintenance and cleanliness of sewer lines on their property. Property owners play a vital role in ensuring the proper functioning and maintenance of sewer lines on their property, which, in turn, contributes to the overall efficiency and reliability of the sewer system. It's important to be aware of and fulfill these responsibilities to prevent and address sewer-related issues effectively.

In the event of a sewer backup, property owners are encouraged to contact the City for assistance before contacting a plumber. During business hours, you can reach out to the City at 775-777-7135, and for after-hours support, call 775-777-7300.


Preventing sewer line backups is essential for maintaining a smoothly functioning sewer system. By taking these preventive measures, property owners can contribute to the efficiency and reliability of the sewer system, reducing the risk of backups and associated inconveniences and costs. Here are some actions property owners can take to help prevent backups in their own lines and the main sewer line:

Proper Disposal: Be mindful of what you flush down toilets and pour down drains. Avoid flushing non-biodegradable items like disposable wipes, diapers, feminine hygiene products, and paper towels. Dispose of these items in the trash.  

Grease Management: Do not pour cooking oils, fats, and grease down the drain. Instead, collect and dispose of them in a designated container. Grease can congeal and block sewer lines.

Hair and Debris: Use drain screens and traps to prevent hair and debris from entering the drains. Regularly clean and remove debris from these screens.

Chemicals and Medications: Avoid disposing of chemicals, prescription medications, or over-the-counter drugs down the drain or toilet. Properly dispose of them at designated collection sites.  Do NOT flush any hypodermic needles. 

Tree Roots: Ensure that trees with extensive root systems are not planted near sewer lines, as their roots can infiltrate and damage the pipes. Regularly maintain trees and roots that may be close to sewer lines.

Regular Maintenance: Consider scheduling regular sewer line inspections and maintenance by professionals to detect and address any issues before they lead to backups.

Awareness: Be aware of the signs of a potential sewer backup, such as slow drains, gurgling noises in pipes, or sewage odors. Address issues promptly to prevent backups.


Preventing sewer odors inside your house or building is essential for maintaining a comfortable and healthy living or working environment. Here are two effective methods to prevent sewer odors:

Maintaining P-Traps: P-Traps are U-shaped pipe fittings located under each drain in your plumbing system. They are designed to hold water, creating a seal that prevents odors and sewer gases, such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S), from entering your property. To ensure P-Traps are effective, periodically check and maintain unused drains, sinks, and floor drains to make sure there is water in the P-Trap. If a drain is not used regularly, pour some water down it to refill the P-Trap.

Inspecting Roof Vents: The sewer system in your house or building is vented through pipes that extend to the roof, allowing sewer odors to escape into the atmosphere. To prevent sewer odors from lingering in your property, inspect these roof vents regularly to ensure they are free from obstructions like bird nests, leaves, debris, or any other blockages. When vents are clear, sewer odors can escape freely through them, preventing them from entering your indoor spaces.

Adopted by the City Council January 22, 2008


To set forth the policy of the City Council regarding the City’s position on sewer backups, and to establish a procedure for responding to backups as they are reported.


Nevada Revised Statues 41.033 states that no action may be brought against a city which is based upon failure to inspect any building, structure, vehicle, street, public highway or other public works facility or improvement to determine any hazards, deficiencies or other matters, whether or not there is a duty to inspect; or failure to discover such hazard, deficiency or other matter, whether or not an inspection is made.  This Statute clearly applies to situations in which a sewer line back ups onto private property.  Thus, it is the policy of the City to accept no liability for sewer backups and their consequences.

However, the Council recognizes the inconvenience a sewer backup may cause a property owner and voluntarily will assist property owners, without acceptance of any liability or responsibility for any direct or indirect damages or costs, with the cost of the initial and timely clean up of the property only in cases where the backup occurred in the main sewer line rather than the service line.


All reported incidents of sewer backups will be timely responded to by representatives of the Water Department as follows:

1.   A determination will be made as to the location of the blockage and/or the cause of the backup.

2.   Where the backup occurred as a result of work being done by the City on or blockage within the main sewer line, the property owner will be given instructions to make contact with a cleaning service to assist with immediate clean up.  The reasonable costs (as determined by the City of Elko) of this initial cleanup will be borne by the City, but shall be limited to the reasonable costs of the initial clean up.  Initial clean up costs include:  initial service call, water extraction, powerwashing, anti-microbial application, air movers and equipment decontamination charges.  Reasonable costs do not include removal of property, replacement of carpeting, tile or furnishings, new construction, disposal, or any other costs or damages whether direct or indirect.”

3.   Where the backup occurred as a result of work being done by the property owner on or blockage within the sewer service line, the property owner will be notified of the suspected cause of the backup and advised to call for professional assistance, if so desired. 

4.   Immediately following response to a sewer backup call, Water Department representatives will make a full report of the call and associated response to the City Manager and Utilities Director.   

Any and all claims made by property owners for reimbursement of clean up expenses not determined to be payable by the City according to this policy and claims for repair and/or replacement of personal or real property shall be reviewed, investigated and evaluated by the City subject to the provisions of NRS 41.033.