Living near water
If you own land or property alongside a river or other watercourse, this information is for you. It explains your rights and responsibilities as a riverside property owner.
What's a riparian owner?
If you own land on either or both sides of an ‘ordinary watercourse’ (not a main river) then you are the riparian owner. If the watercourse is between your land and a neighbouring property then you will be responsible up to the middle of the channel. This ensures that you and your neighbours are all equally responsible.
I’m not sure which land I own. How can I find out?
If you are not sure where exactly the border of your land is there are various ways you can find out, from having a chat with your neighbours to contacting the Land Registry.
What are my responsibilities?
You should ensure that the bank and bed of your section of watercourse is properly maintained so the flow of water is not obstructed. You also have a duty of care towards neighbours upstream and downstream.
I’m a tenant of my home? Is this my responsibility?
It is worth checking your tenancy agreement and talking to your landlord. Even so, you should be careful not to allow things like rubbish or grass cuttings to get into the watercourse as this may cause a blockage.
Are all dykes and watercourses maintained by landowners?
No, all 'main rivers' are looked after by the Environment Agency. In addition, there are many other smaller dykes and watercourses looked after by Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs), such as the Trent Valley Internal Drainage Board (TVIDB). Some watercourses may also be looked after by the district and county councils.
What about the drains at the side of the road (road gullies/grates)?
Road gullies drain water from the road to prevent it from flooding. With the exception of private ‘unadopted’ roads, these are the responsibility of Nottinghamshire County Council . If you are unsure whether your road is adopted then please contact Nottinghamshire County Council. Gullies are not intended to drain water from your home.
If there are drains near you which are not draining the water away, then you should call the county council to let them know.
Do water companies have anything to do with ditches, dykes and watercourses?
Water companies such as Severn Trent look after the mains water supplies and sewerage services to homes all around Britain. They don’t generally look after open watercourses. Almost all homes in Britain are served by their local water company’s pipework.
My sewerage pipe is blocked. Who do I contact?
Please get in touch with Severn Trent about blockages.
However, it is possible that your house may be served by a ‘private sewer’, meaning that your local sewerage piping may not have been ‘adopted’ by the water companies. This means they are not responsible for the repair and maintenance of the sewer. If so, these sewers are maintained by the owners of homes and other buildings served by these sewers.
Under current legislation, if you live in a street with unadopted sewer pipework then you and your neighbours may be responsible if there is ever a problem with this pipework. It is also important to know that if a problem happens with the pipework between the boundary of your own home and the public sewer then you could be responsible for this too.
However, the legislation on this is set to change so you may wish to contact us for further advice.
Further advice is available on the neighbourhood nuisances webpages.
What if a flood happens anyway?
Sadly, we can’t yet prevent flooding completely, but there are services there to help you in emergencies. For further details, see our flood information pages.
PLEASE NOTE: This web page is only intended as a guide, not a complete statement of the law. If you are unsure of your rights and responsibilities, please contact either Newark and Sherwood District Council or the relevant body mentioned above.