Flooding and flood risk management

Flooding - your responsibilities

Read our guide to riparian ownership (PDF 368.5KB) to find our your rights and 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) for more information.

Property level protection measures are easy-to-implement and provide cost-effective ways for homeowners to take more effective action to manage their individual flood risk. The measures extend the options for managing flood risk beyond relying on sandbags, allowing for a greater level of protection and a faster recovery should a flooding event occur.

Further information is available in the following Property Flood Resilience eMag produced by Mary Dhonau OBE in partnership with the Environment Agency and Flood Re.