If you own land or property alongside a river or other watercourse including a culvert, this guide is for you. It explains your rights and responsibilities as a riverside property owner.
A watercourse is any natural or artificial channel that water flows through, such as a river, including where a river flows through a culvert, brook, beck, or mill stream. If you own property alongside a watercourse, you are a 'riparian owner'.
Some of your responsibilities include:
- maintaining river beds and banks
- allowing the flow of water to pass without obstruction
- controlling invasive alien species such as Japanese knotweed
Read our guide to your responsibilities, Living on the edge 2012.
Managing risks to riverside properties
The Environment Agency is a risk management authority for riverside properties, along with internal drainage boards and some local authorities. The Environment Agency has powers and responsibilities to manage flood risk from main rivers and the sea, and works with others to maintain and improve main rivers throughout England. Our work often affects property owners and people who live near to rivers.
Internal drainage boards and some local authorities have powers to manage flood risk from ordinary watercourses, surface water and groundwater.
Legal amendments from 2012
The tidal reaches of many rivers, where the sea flows in and out of the mouth of the river, have public rights of navigation. Harbour authorities may have some control in these reaches. The Environment Agency has control over navigation for some waterways only, and will not become involved in disputes or give legal advice about navigating any other waterways.
Lead local flood authority role
Local authorities have powers to manage local flood risk only if they are lead local flood authorities under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. These include county councils and unitary authorities, but do not include district councils.
Who to contact for help
If you have a query about the legislation, the role of risk management authorities, or your rights and responsibilities as a riverside property owner please contact us.