A riparian owner is someone who has any watercourse within or adjacent to any boundary of their property. Where a watercourse is sited between two or more property boundaries each owner may be equally responsible. Riparian owners are responsible for maintaining the river bed and banks within their section of the watercourse. It is their duty to work towards minimising pollution and preventing obstruction to the water flow.
Under the new flood and water management act, riparian owners maintain all the duties and responsibilities for watercourses in their land set out in the Land Drainage Act.
Property owners must agree with the Environment Agency about maintenance and construction of flood defences, particularly in sections of main rivers. Support or advice about watercourse maintenance is available from Local Authorities and the Environment Agency.
Devon County Council has produced an advice leaflet summarising rights and responsibilities when it comes to rivers, streams, ditches and surface water on your land – Living with Water.
The Environment Agency has also produced guidance covering the responsibilities and rules to follow for watercourses on or near your property, and permissions you need to do work around them – Owning a watercourse.