Although you may not realise it, if you own land which is adjacent to a watercourse or land which has a watercourse running through or underneath it, you are a 'Riparian Owner'.
Landowners, householders and businesses whose property is adjacent to a river, stream or ditch are likely to be Riparian Owners with associated responsibilities.
If a property backs onto a river or stream then the property owner is likely to be a riparian owner, owning the land up to the centre of the watercourse, with certain rights and responsibilities, which include:
- To receive a flow of water in its natural state, without undue interference in quantity or quality
- To protect your property against flooding from the watercourse and to prevent erosion of the watercourse banks or any nearby structures
- To pass on flow without obstruction, pollution or diversion
- To maintain the banks and bed of the watercourse (including any trees and shrubs growing on the banks) and any flood defences that exist on it
- You must not build a new structure that encroaches upon the watercourse or alters the flow of water without first obtaining permission from your local authority or Natural Resources Wales
The aim of these responsibilities is to help manage flood risk and protect the environment.
Further information on the rights and responsibilities of Riparian Owners can be found in the Natural Resources Wales document A guide to your rights and responsibilities of riverside ownership in Wales. It also includes information on understanding flood risk, tidal watercourses, culverts, mills, dams, the Water Framework Directive 2000 and the potential designation of structures as flood risk management assets.
Riparian Owners need to keep their watercourse free of rubbish, garden refuse and any other debris natural or otherwise. – The Disposal of green/garden waste is not an acceptable practice. It could result in the spread of invasive plant species and also lead to the contamination of the watercourse. Ceredigion County Council offers a garden waste collection service, further information on this service is available on the Garden Waste page.
The maintenance and clearance of ordinary watercourses is vital to local flood risk management and, if you fail to maintain the free flow of a watercourse, and flooding occurs as a result, Ceredigion County Council can request you to maintain the watercourse and you could face legal action.
A riparian owner may not however carry out any work, other than general cleaning and routine maintenance (such as the removal of weeds or debris) in or adjacent to a watercourse without the consent of the regulating body. For more information on this, please visit the Ordinary Watercourse Consent page.
Works on a watercourse may also require planning permission, as well as flood defence or ordinary watercourse consent. Your local planning authority can advise whether your proposed works will require planning permission, and possibly a flood risk/flood consequence assessment to support your application.