What it means to be a ‘Riparian’ Landowner

If you have a stream, a babbling brook or even a larger water course at the boundary of your property, you are a ‘riparian’ landowner. Along with this nice selling point for your property comes not only a number of rights, but also several responsibilities. It is important you are aware of these and that you manage your natural water feature according to them.

  • Unless you know of another owner, you can assume that you own a river that runs through your property. If it’s at the boundary you own that stretch within your boundaries to the centre of the flow. Here the stream actually constitutes the boundary. If there is a fence or wall for example your deeds will spell out your ownership, if any, of the water course.
  • The basic rule of thumb, is that the water leaving your property should be of the same natural quality and quantity, as it was when it entered your property. This means you can’t abstract without specific permits up to a quota. You cannot pollute the water either.
  • You can of course, within reason, regulation and in consultation with your local authorities protect your property from flooding.
  • Also, with an Environment Agency rod license, you can catch the fish in your own stretch of water coarse.
  • You do not have to improve the ability of your land to drain away floodwaters.
  • You should remove any and all obstructions to natural flow. Animal carcasses in particular are your responsibility. There are strict regulations in these areas.
  • You have to maintain and retain easy access to the stream.
  • If you have any river management devices in your part of the stream -things like weirs, culverts or rubbish collecting grids, then it is your responsibility to maintain them. They are important to prevent the flooding of you and your neighbours.
  • Never hold back the fish!
  • You must and need to work in close consultation with the relevant authorities. Especially if you plan to make changes or build near your waterfront. In law it an offence to make changes or do construction without notifying the environment agency.
  • Do not do anything to pollute the water coarse. So never throw away rubbish of any kind on stream banks, because it can seep into the water cycle. Even grass cuttings pollute streams.
  • You have a duty to protect your property from flood water and seepage through any kind of barrier, whether it is natural or a man-made flood defence. You may be liable to pay for fixing damaged flood defences.
  • Never allow water courses to become overgrown with stuff like Japanese knotweed or any other plant invader.
  • Look after the wildlife and ensure that any changes you make are environmentally friendly.

This is only a short synopsis of your rights and responsibilities when it comes to stewarding water across your land. For full details and good advice refer to; http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/default.aspx