Riparian land ownership

A person may be a riparian land owner if they own property or land adjacent to a river, stream, ditch or underground piped watercourse. If you are a riparian land owner you hold a number of responsibilities as well as rights in relation to the watercourse, all of which are explained in the Environment Agency guide ‘Living on the Edge’.

Determining Riparian Land Ownership

It is not always easy to determine whether you are a riparian landowner, however:

  • If your land boundary is next to a watercourse, it is assumed that you own the land up to the centre of the watercourse, unless it is stated in your deeds that it is owned by someone else.
  • If the watercourse runs alongside your garden wall/fence/hedge, you should check your deeds to see if the wall marks the boundary. If it does not and the watercourse marks the boundary, it is assumed you own the land up to the centre of the watercourse.
  • If you own land with a watercourse running through it, it is assumed that you own, and are responsible for the stretch within your land boundary.
  • If you own land with a watercourse running below it (in a pipe/culvert), it is assumed that you own and are responsible for the section within your land boundary.
  • 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.

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.