Role of the Riparian Owner
You are known as a riparian owner if you own land or property adjacent to a river or other watercourse. By virtue of being a riparian owner you have rights and responsibilities.
Your rights as a riparian owner:
- You are presumed to own the land up to the centre of the watercourse, unless it is known to be owned by others
- You have the right to receive flow of water in its natural state, without undue interference in quantity or quality
- You have the right to protect your property from flooding, and your land from erosion. You will in most cases need the prior consent of the Agency for any works, however
- You have the right to fish in your watercourse, although this must be by legal methods and with an Agency rod licence
- Without needing a licence, you can abstract a maximum of 20 cubic metres of water per day for the domestic purposes of your own household or for agricultural use, excluding spray irrigation, from a watercourse at a point that directly adjoins your land. Most other types of abstraction will require a licence from the Agency
Before starting any work on or adjacent to a watercourse, you must submit plans of what you propose to the Agency and the local authority to determine whether you require a consents and/or planning permission.
If the work affects sites of known conservation or archaeological value, you may need further permissions from the relevant English or Welsh authorities. Environmental issues, including flood risk, wildlife conservation, fisheries, and reshaping of the river and landscape, must all be considered.
Your responsibilities as a riparian owner:
- To pass on flow without obstruction, pollution or diversion affecting the rights of others
- To accept flood flows through your land, even if caused by inadequate capacity downstream, as there is no common law duty to improve a watercourse
- You must not cause any obstructions to the free passage of fish
- You should discuss the maintenance of flood defences with the Environment Agency office
- Failure to carry out your responsibilities could result in possible civil action from others
- Maintain the bed and banks of the watercourse (including trees and shrubs growing on the banks), and for clearing any debris, natural or otherwise, including litter and animal carcasses, even if it did not originate from your land
- Keeping the bed and banks clear of any matter that could cause an obstruction, either on your land or by being washed away by high flow to obstruct a structure downstream
- Keeping clear any structures that you own such as culverts, trash screens, weirs and mill gates
- Protecting your property from seepage through natural or man-made banks. Where such seepage threatens the structural integrity of a flood defence, it may become the concern of the Agency