A sanitary sewer (also called a foul sewer) is a separate underground carriage system specifically for transporting sewage from houses and commercial buildings to treatment or disposal. Sanitary sewers serving industrial areas also carry industrial wastewater. The 'system of sewers' is called sewerage.
Sanitary sewers are operated separately and independently of storm drains, which carry the runoff of rain and other water which wash into city streets. Sewers carrying both sewage and stormwater together are called combined sewers.
In the developed world, sewers are usually pipelines that begin with connecting pipes from buildings to one or more levels of larger underground trunk mains, which transport the sewage to sewage treatment facilities. Vertical pipes, called manholes, connect the mains to the surface. The manholes are used for access to the sewer pipes for inspection and maintenance, and as a means to vent sewer gases. They also facilitate vertical and horizontal angles in otherwise straight pipelines. Sewers are generally gravity powered, though pumps may be used if necessary. The most commonly used sanitary pipe is SDR-35 (standard dimension ratio), with smaller sized laterals interconnected within a larger sized main.