Riparian ownership

You have certain rights and responsibilities and are classified as a riparian owner if you own land adjoining, above, or with a watercourse running through it.

You can use our online map to find watercourses in your local area.

View the online map

If a watercourse forms the boundary between you and your neighbour, the law presumes that you own to the centre point of the watercourse. This means that you and your neighbour are responsible for the maintenance and water flow within the watercourse.

Where a watercourse runs along the roadside, the responsibility for maintenance generally lies with the adjacent landowner. However, in certain circumstances, maintenance of these watercourses may be the responsibility of Lincolnshire County Council in its role as Highways Authority.

Numerous authorities have statutory powers over watercourses in Lincolnshire. If you wish to undertake work on or near a watercourse, you may need to obtain consent or byelaw relaxation from the relevant authorities:

  • The Environment Agency for works on or near main rivers, sea defences, or the sea
  • The relevant Internal Drainage Board for works on or near ordinary watercourses within their district
  • Lincolnshire County Council for works on ordinary watercourses outside of Internal Drainage Board Districts

Internal Drainage Boards act as our agent for consenting and enforcement on ordinary watercourses. These areas are locally referred to as ‘extended areas’. You can find out more about the extended areas by emailing Applications for land drainage consent or byelaw relaxation should be directed to the relevant Internal Drainage Board.

 You can find more information about this process here

Please note that the above does not remove the need to obtain any other relevant permissions such as planning permissions.

The Joint Lincolnshire Flood Risk and Water Management Partnership has partnered with North and North East Lincolnshire councils to develop and implement a Joint Action Plan regarding riparian watercourses.

Failure to carry out your riparian responsibilities may:

  • Cause flooding to your property or your neighbours 
  • Result in the relevant authority serving a notice requiring you to maintain the watercourse and ultimately consider prosecution if you do not comply

You can find further information regarding the rights and responsibilities of riparian landowners here, or contact the Flood Risk Team at