Information For Owners Of A Riverside Property

Need to know facts for riverside owners

Owners of land which include such watercourses are known as 'riparian owners'. If you are a riparian owner you are responsible for maintaining river beds and banks, allowing water to flow unobstructed, as well as controlling any foreign plant life that may be excessively invasive. A riparian owner's rights are well established, but these can be affected by other law and certain activities or works may require permissions from designated governing bodies.

Riparian owners

Riparian owners have the right to protect their property from flooding and their land from erosion, but before any works are begun (in accordance with the Water Resources Act 1991) you are required to notify the Environment Agency (EA) so that they can agree your plans. It is generally presumed that you own the watercourse up to its centre, unless it is known to be under the ownership of someone else. Water should flow onto your land in its natural quality and quantity, and you will have the right to fish using "legal methods" with a valid rod-license from the EA. Should you wish to remove or abstract water from a surface source (from a river, stream or canal) and you intend to take more than 4,400 gallons a day, you will likely require an abstraction license. Your rights will also be affected by your duty to other riverside land owners, the wider community and the environment.


Responsibilities of riparian owners extend beyond their own section of a watercourse, in that other owners are entitled to the same right of receiving water in natural quantity and quality. This means that you must not obstruct or divert the flow, nor should you cause it to become polluted. You must clear natural and man-made debris, even if it did not originate from your property, including litter and animal carcasses. Maintenance of banks and beds involves tending to plants and trees on banks, as well as removal of harmful species growing on beds (such as Japanese knotweed). Embankments and flood defences are vital for your protection and the protection of others, so must be maintained as well. For a more detailed run-down of your rights and responsibilities you may wish to read the Living on the edgebooklet (provided by the EA) to make sure you don't contravene your responsibilities and expose yourself to legal action.


Because your property adjoins a watercourse, as a riparian owner you are likely to be at more risk from flooding than other homeowners. The EA website provides a number of resources for people at risk from flood waters. If you are at risk of incurring flood damage, insurance may be hard to come by. With homeprotect you can get a home flood insurance quote online at a competitive price, even if you are at moderate to high risk of encountering a flood. We believe that home insurance should be available at a fair price to the people who need it most; as when you live next to a potential flood risk, insurance should always be your top priority.

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