Maintenance of Watercourses and Ditches
You are by law a 'riparian owner' of any watercourse within or next to the boundaries of your property. If the watercourse is at the edge of your property, you will normally be responsible up to the centre of the channel.
Riparian owners have a number of rights and responsibilities, which include:
- Allowing the flow of water without obstructing, polluting or diverting, or affecting the right of others;
- Maintaining the bed and banks of the river, including maintenance of vegetation and the removal of debris and animal carcasses, even if it did not originate from your land;
- Accepting flood waters through your land, even if caused by inadequate channel, however you may protect your home
Under the Land Drainage Act 1991 (and where necessary, as amended by the Flood & Water Management Act 2010), North Worcestershire Water Management is authorised to deal with obstructions in an ordinary watercourse.
Ditches that run alongside the highway generally do not form part of the highway and remain the responsibility of the land owner or occupier. However, where ditches have been dedicated as forming part of the highway, or where the ditch was constructed for the purpose of draining the highway, then the Highway Authority will be responsible. Under common law, a property owner is the riparian owner of any highway ditch within or adjacent to the property.
If an obstruction is likely to impede the flow of the water, a notice may be served upon the riparian owner(s) to clear the watercourse or ditch.
There are several ecological legislative drivers and policies, which may impact upon the work which needs to be carried out. You may wish to to consult the Ecology page on Worcestershire County Council's website page or visit the Natural England website.
Examples of good watercourses and ditches can be seen below.