Keeping water courses clear and clean
Responsiblity for maintaining water courses lies with the owner of the land that the water course is either in or runs adjacent to. Clearance and maintenance of water courses is an important aspect of flood risk reduction. Water courses provide formal drainage for communities and help to control flows of water during flood events.
A water course is any channel that forms part of a land drainage system, this includes ditches (even when dry) culverts, streams and ditches.
The following information is a short guide to riparian ownership. For full information about your rights and responsibilities and before you undertake any work or alteration to a watercourse please use the Environment Agency information called Living on the Edge. This useful document will provide you with all the information you need and also guide you to other important organisations and legislation.
Who is a Riparian Owner
Under common law you are the riparian owner of any watercourse within or adjacent to the boundaries of your property. Where a watercourse is sited between two or more property boundaries each owner may be equally responsible.
You have the right to receive a flow of water in its natural state, without undue interference in quantity or quality. You have the right to protect your property against flooding from the watercourse and also to prevent erosion of the watercourse banks or any structures.
As a riparian owner your responsibilities include the maintenance of the bank and bed of your section of watercourse, in order to avoid any obstruction of flow.
Your responsibilities as a riparian owner are based on legislation. The principle legislation is:
- The Public Health Act 1936.
- The Land Drainage Acts of 1991 & 1994.
- Water Resources Act 1991.
- National Rivers Authority (now the Environment Agency) Land Drainage Byelaws 1981.