Component: Soakaways



Soakaways are square or circular excavations either filled with rubble or lined with brickwork, pre-cast concrete or polyethylene rings/perforated storage structures surrounded by granular backfill. They can be grouped and linked together to drain large areas including highways. The supporting structure and backfill can be substituted by modular or geocellular units.


Soakaways provide stormwater attenuation, stormwater treatment and groundwater recharge.


Advantages & disadvantages




  • Minimal net land take                                 

  • Provides groundwater recharge

  • Good volume reduction and peak flow attenuation

  • Good community acceptability

  • Easy to construct and operate

  • Can be retrofitted




  • Not suitable for poor draining soils

  • Field investigations required to confirm infiltration rates

  • Not suitable for locations where infiltration water may put structural foundations at risk, or where infiltrating water may adversely affect existing drainage patterns

  • Not appropriate for draining polluted runoff

  • Increased risk of groundwater pollution

  • Some uncertainty over long-term performance and possible reduced performance during long wet periods

  • Where the property owner is responsible for operation and maintenance, performance difficult to guarantee.

 SuDS Soakaways

Where component can be used

Residential:  Yes

Commercial/industrial:  Yes

High density:  Yes

Retrofit:  Yes

Contaminated sites:  No

Sites above vulnerable groundwater: No



Peak flow reduction:  Good

Volume reduction:  Good

Water quality treatment: Good

Amenity potential:  Poor

Ecology potential:  Poor



Infiltration techniques:

  • provide storage for runoff  in an underground chamber, lined with a porous membrane and filled with coarse crushed rock.

  • enhance the natural ability of the soil to drain the water. They do this by providing a large surface area in contact with the surrounding soil, through which the water can pass.

The amount of water that can be disposed of by a soakaway within a specified time depends mainly on the infiltration potential of the surrounding soil. The size of the device and the bulk density of any fill material will govern storage capacity.



Runoff is treated in different ways by a soakaway. These include:

  • physical filtration to remove solids

  • adsorption onto the material

  • biochemical reactions involving micro-organisms growing on the fill or in the soil.

The level of treatment depends on the size of the media and the length of the flow path through the system, which controls the time it takes the runoff to pass into the surrounding soil. Pre-treatment may be required before polluted runoff is allowed into a soakaway.



Soakaways are easy to integrate into a site, but they offer very little in the way of amenity or biodiversity value as they should be completely underground and water should not appear on the surface.


They do, however, increase soil moisture content and help to recharge groundwater, thereby helping to mitigate problems of low river flows.



  • Removal of sediments/debris from pre-treatment device

  • Monitoring performance (using observation well).



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