On site sewage management

If your home is not connected to Council’s municipal sewerage system, you may have an On-Site Sewage Management (OSSM) system, such as a septic tank, composting toilet or aerated system. 

There are special regulations that apply to these systems. As the owner of the property, it is your responsibility to ensure that the system is registered and approved by Council and that it is working safely and effectively.

On-site systems can create a risk to health and the environment if not properly maintained. 

Registration and approval

Before installing a septic tank (or on-site sewage management system), you must first obtain approval from Council. This can be completed via the NSW Planning Portal, either in addition to a Development Application or as a standalone application.
If you live on a property that already has a septic tank (or on-site sewage management system), please ensure that it is registered with Council and has approval to operate. This is a requirement under the Local Government Act 1993 and there are penalties of up to $2,200 for failure to comply. You can check whether or not your system has approval by contacting your local Council office.

Registrations for existing sewage management systems may also be completed via the NSW Planning Portal

Fees and charges may apply. View fees and charges relevant to registration and approval of on-site sewage management systems.

Which septic system is right for you?

There are various septic systems available, and it may be worth speaking with an Environmental Health Officer at Council or a septic system specialist before making a decision on what to buy. Factors that will influence which system you install include:
  • Where the system will be located – soil type, the slope of the ground, available area for dispersal, proximity to bodies of water, etc
  • What the system will be used for – waste from toilets only with separate grey-water facilities or for all waste-water, whether or not the intention is to use treated waste-water for any form of irrigation, etc
  • Who will use the system – how many people is the residence capable of housing, how often is the premises occupied, etc
  • Water supply – is the residence connected to reticulated water, tank-water, bore-water, etc

The most commonly used setup in Australia is the basic septic tank and trench system. This can be expanded to include sand filters, wetland treatment areas, and evapotranspiration beds, instead of the trench(es) where soil conditions make trenches less suitable.

Aerated Wastewater Treatment Systems are also available, including a second tank that treats the effluent further through aeration and the use of chlorination or ultra-violet light before being pumped to an irrigation area. These systems are required to have a strict quarterly servicing contract and need to be closely monitored and maintained.

Composting systems, both wet and waterless, are also becoming increasingly popular. As with any on-site sewage management system, it is important to make sure that what you purchase is accredited by the NSW Department of Health.

For more information on which system will meet your needs you can refer to The Easy Septic Guide or speak with qualified plumber/septic system specialist or an Environmental Health Officer at Council. 

Reporting a malfunctioning septic tank / wastewater system

If you are concerned that an on-site sewage management system is being operated in an unsafe manner or in a way which is detrimental to the environment, you can lodge a complaint with Council’s Customer Service Team for investigation by our Environmental Health Officers.

Please note that Council’s role is to implement the relevant environment and public health laws and does not extend to seeking compensation for any personal injury or to providing legal advice.

When lodging a complaint, please provide as much information as possible. Click here to submit a works request online. 

If you have been exposed to a malfunctioning on-site sewage management system and you are feeling unwell or your health is affected in any way, it is important that you seek medical advice from your GP or local public health unit as soon as possible.

Dubbo Public Health Unit
(Far West and Western NSW LHD)
(02) 6809 8979
After hours: 
(02) 6885 8666 (Dubbo Base Hospital) ask for Public Health Officer on call.
If no answer, call mobile 0418 866 397