Flooding and flood risk management

Flooding - responsibilities

If you own land adjacent to a watercourse or which has a watercourse running through it, you are a considered to be a riparian owner and as such you have certain legal responsibilities.

We assume that responsibility for maintaining a watercourse, which includes ditches and culverts (watercourses that have been piped underground), rests with the riparian owner unless it can be proved otherwise.

Responsibilities of a riparian owner are to:

  • maintain the watercourse and to clear any obstructions (natural or otherwise) so the normal flow of water is not impeded
  • maintain the banks and bed of the watercourse and any flood defences that exist on it
  • accept the natural flow from your upstream neighbour and transfer it downstream without obstruction, pollution or diversion
  • maintain any structures on your stretch of watercourse including culverts, weirs and mill gates

Rights of a riparian owner are to:

  • receive a flow of water in its natural state, without undue interference in quantity or quality
  • protect your property against flooding from the watercourse and to prevent erosion of the watercourse banks or any structures

Further information and advice on your full responsibilities are available in the Environment Agency’s publication: 'Living on the Edge' (PDF 376.4KB) .

Whose responsibility is it to protect your property from flooding?

It is the homeowner's own responsibility to protect their property from flooding. See our Flood Guide (PDF 794.6KB) for more information.

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