Riparian land ownership

You may be a riparian land owner if you own a property or land adjoining, adjacent or with a watercourse. This could include a river, stream, ditch or underground piped watercourse. If you are a riparian land owner you have certain rights and responsibilities for that watercourse, all of which are explained in the Environment Agency guide ‘ Living on the Edge

Determining whether you are a Riparian landowner

  • If your land has a watercourse running through or underneath it
  • If your land has a watercourse running below it in a pipe or culvert
  • If your land boundary is next to a watercourse, unless it is owned by someone else
  • If your garden/fence/hedge has a watercourse running alongside it

If you are a riparian land owner and are proposing to carry out works to the watercourse, you should first check with council whether you require Ordinary Watercourse Consent prior to any works starting.

Your rights

  • To protect your property from flooding
  • To protect your land from erosion

If you are wishing to carry out any works, be sure to first check if your plans need to be agreed with us and if an Ordinary Watercourse Consent is required.

Your responsibilities

  • Ensuring water is allowed to flow without obstructions
  • Keeping bed and banks clear from obstructions
  • Managing vegetation within the channel
  • Keeping any structures, such as trash screens and culverts, clear from debris, silt and rubbish

Enforcement powers

To reduce the risk of flooding Southampton City Council encourages riparian land owners to work towards an effective watercourse system through a process of co-operation, liaison, advice and assistance wherever possible. However, under the Land Drainage Act 1991, and Flood and Water Management Act 2010, all Councils have the powers to serve notice on riparian owners, for the removal of any obstruction or blockage to an ordinary watercourse. Should the riparian owner fail to do so, the Council, as a Lead Local Flood Authority has powers to undertake the work themselves and recharge all associated costs to the riparian owner. The Council will try to resolve problems through discussion with the owners in the first instance and enforcement of legislation will only be used as the last resort.