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Land Drainage and Watercourses


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Land drains are referred to as 'watercourses' and include all rivers, streams, ditches, drains, cuts, culverts (piped sections), dikes, sluices and passages through which water flows. Land drainage is a complex area of responsibility, but in short a landowner is responsible for the land drainage on their property.

Land Owner’s Rights and Responsibilities

As a riparian owner (a person who owns land that is next to or contains a watercourse), you have certain rights and responsibilities in relation to the watercourse. These 'riparian rights' are based on common law.
Your main rights are:

  • To receive flow of water in its natural state, without undue interference in quantity or quality
  • To protect your property from flooding, and your land from erosion
  • That you may own land up to the centre of the watercourse

Your main responsibilities are:

To pass on flow without obstruction, pollution or diversion affecting the rights of others

To accept flood flows through your land, even if caused by inadequate capacity downstream, as there is no common law duty to improve a watercourse

To maintain the bed and banks of the watercourse (including trees and shrubs growing on the banks) and for clearing any debris, natural or otherwise, including litter and animal carcasses, even if it did not originate from your land

To keep the bed and banks clear from any matter that could cause an obstruction either on your land, or by being washed away by high flow to obstruct at a structure downstream. Watercourses and their banks should not be used for the disposal of any form of garden or other waste

Ordinary Watercourse Consent

If you wish to place or construct anything, such as a dam, weir, headwall or culvert, which may affect the flow in a watercourse, you must obtain our written consent. This is in addition to any other consents or approvals you may need. The purpose of ordinary watercourse consent is to control certain activities that might have an adverse flooding impact. For more information and to receive an Ordinary Watercourse Consent application, please contact us.

Inspections and Maintenance

It is the responsibility of the riparian land owner (a person who owns land that is next to or contains a water course) to undertake regular inspections and maintenance. Please note that you will need to receive Ordinary Watercourse Consent if you are undertaking any work on a watercourse.
On land owned by the Local Authority, Conwy’s Environmental Response Team undertake regular inspections of the all known watercourses and culverts. Through regular inspection and maintenance, the risk of watercourse and culvert blockages is reduced. If you spot a problem with a watercourse or culvert, please contact us.

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