Land Drainage Responsibilities and the 1991 Act

by MorfootLandDrainage on September 20, 2012

1994 saw an amendment to the legislation made in 1991 surrounding land drainage, but what does the law say about land drainage, and how are you responsible for it?

Land drainage is commonly something applied to the agricultural industry, but it is a little known fact that there are laws relating to land drainage on a domestic scale. In agriculture, land owners work hard to ensure that their land is correctly drained using systems which take the water away from fields to maximise yields from crops, ultimately increasing the profit farmers can make when it comes to harvest time. And it isn’t just the increased harvest that is a benefit, windows of opportunity for work are increased as the land is more accessible and well-drained land will be valued higher when it comes to sale or rent.

The Land Drainage Act gives riparian owners both rights and responsibilities, if you own land or property adjacent to a watercourse, the legislation will apply to you. Living next to a watercourse means that you are presumed to own the land up to the centre of the water course, giving you a number of rights. These are as follows:

  • You should receive the flow of water in its natural state without interference in the quantity or quality
  • You are allowed to protect your property from flooding and land from erosion although consent will need to be given from the Environmental Agency and Local Authority for any works
  • You may fish in the watercourse (with a rod licence)
  • You can take up to 20 cubic metres of water per day from the watercourse for domestic or agricultural use (excluding spray irrigation)

Your responsibilities are as follows:

  • You must pass flow on without affecting the rights of others
  • You must accept flood flow through your land, even when it has been caused by a lack of capacity downstream
  • You should maintain the bed and banks of the watercourse and clear any debris, even if it did not come originally from your property
  • You must allow for the free passage of fish

If you fail to carry out your duties as a riparian owner, and a watercourse becomes blocked or obstructed Local Authorities are legally allowed to serve a notice under the Land Drainage Act. If the work or repairs still are not completed then this work may then be carried out by the Authority themselves, before handing the costs over to the responsible party. There is also the chance of being prosecuted for nuisance under the Public Health Act.

The reason the Land Drainage Act states that a riparian owner must apply for planning consent before carrying out work near, on or in a watercourse is so that any effects which could be seen on the drainage network or environment can be planned for.

The Land Drainage Act is there to ensure that there are no issues with regards to land drainage in a domestic arena. Obviously poor drainage near a watercourse can lead to a number of issues – flooding being one of them, and the idea of the law is to make sure that there is no unnecessary damage done to either your own or other people’s properties.

For more information about the Land Drainage Act, visit (

This article was written by Rebecca Field on behalf of William Morfoot, land drainage experts. With over 50 years in the land drainage industry they have set up land drainage systems for a number of clients, including domestic use.




Latest posts by MorfootLandDrainage (see all)

Previous post:

Next post: