What are my rights & responsibilities if I have land next to a watercourse?

As a riparian owner you have a right to:

  • ownership of the land up to the centre of the watercourse (unless it is known to be owned by someone else)
  • the flow of water onto your land in its natural quantity and quality
  • protect your property from flooding, and land from erosion (subject to approval by the Envionment Agency)
  • fish in the watercourse. This right may be sold or leased, and a fisherman must have a valid Environment Agency rod licence.
  • acquire accretion
  • boomage

As a riparian owner you have a duty to:

  • pass on the flow of water without obstruction, pollution or diversion affecting the rights of others
  • accept flood flows, even if they are caused by inadequate capacity downstream. There is however, no duty to improve the drainage capacity of a watercourse.
  • maintain the bed and banks of the watercourse and to clear any debris, whether natural or man-made
  • keep any culverts, debris screens, weirs and mill gates clear of debris
  • be responsible for protection of your land from flooding
  • not cause any obstructions (either temporary or permanent) that would prevent the free passage of fish

For more information please click the link below to view Witham Internal Drainage Boards’ guidance for developers and householders with land next to a watercourse:

IDB Information Leaflet

The Environment Agency also provide guidance for waterside property owners, which you can dowload from the link below:

Environment Agency’s Living on the Edge Document

(Please note that the Witham First District IDB is not responsible for the content of other sites)