Annual mowing and clearing of easements resumes

In early April, OWASA will begin the annual mowing, clearing and inspection of its sanitary sewer easements. This work, which includes trimming trees and shrubs where needed, is intended to:

  • help prevent roots from entering cracks in sewers. When roots get into a sewer to get the water and nutrients in wastewater, the roots can grow inside the pipe and block the flow of wastewater, causing an overflow from a manhole. Preventing wastewater overflows is one of OWASA’s highest priorities.
  • ensure safe, timely access for inspections, maintenance and repair work including emergency responses to wastewater overflows when needed.

Most of OWASA’s easements are 30 feet wide, but usually about 20 feet of the easement width is cleared (about 10 feet on each side of a sewer pipe).

OWASA’s work on easements will start in the Rangewood neighborhood west of Carrboro, and the crew will generally work from west to east. OWASA normally mows its sewer easements once a year.

Any customer with questions or comments about the easement mowing and clearing is invited to contact Randy Horton, OWASA’s Manager of the Water Distribution and Wastewater Collection Systems, at 919-537-4280 or

A brochure with more information about sewer easements will be mailed on request to any customer and information is available by clicking here .

Customers are encouraged to contact OWASA if they have trees, shrubs, fencing, structures, etc. which may need to be relocated from an easement.

Some plantings, such as shallow-rooted trees and shrubs, may be allowed in the outer part of an easement with OWASA’s approval of a planting plan. Please click here for more information.

Background information

What is an OWASA easement?

An OWASA easement is a defined area where OWASA has the right to:

  • keep clear access.
  • do maintenance, repairs, inspections, improvements and renovations.
  • install water or sewer pipes, manholes and related items.

The presence of an easement does not change the ownership of the underlying land, but the owner’s use of an easement area is limited by OWASA’s right to do clearing, repairs, maintenance, inspections, improvements and other work as noted above.

Does OWASA own or maintain drainage or stormwater easements?

No. OWASA has easements for drinking water, sanitary sewer (wastewater) and reclaimed water facilities. However, in some locations, an easement may have been created for multiple purposes such as stormwater, energy and/or communications as well as OWASA services.

Where are most sewers and easements?

Many public sewers are installed in easements outside of street right-of-way. Because most sewers operate with the natural force of gravity, they have a downhill slope and are therefore often installed in low areas such as ravines and along creeks.

The location of an easement is normally recorded in the County Registry of Deeds with a surveyor’s document showing the boundary of the easement.  Property owners are encouraged to check their land acquisition records to see whether and where their property may include utility easements.

In many but not all cases, an easement goes along the rear or side boundary of two properties so that each of the adjacent lots includes an easement area 15 feet wide. Sewer pipes and manholes are usually in the approximate center of an easement.

Citizens are invited to contact OWASA’s Water Distribution and Wastewater Collection Systems Department at 919-537-4292 to check whether there is an OWASA sewer on the citizen’s land. The presence of an OWASA sewer is also indicated by manholes with covers marked “sanitary sewer” or “OWASA.”

Most public water lines are in street right-of-way rather than in easements across private property. However, some water mains are in off-street easements, which OWASA also keeps clear by mowing, etc.

For more information:

Randy Horton, Manager, Water Distribution and Wastewater Collection Systems, 919-537-4280 or