Owning a watercourse and land drainage consent

Owning a watercourse

You own a stretch of watercourse (also known as a riparian owner):

  • that runs on or under your land
  • on the boundary of your land, up to its centre.

You have responsibilities for the stretch of watercourse you own.

If someone else owns the land on the other side of the watercourse, you’ll be equally responsible for it.

A watercourse can be a:

  • river
  • culverts
  • streams
  • ditches.

If you own a watercourse, you must let water flow naturally. You’re also responsible for maintaining the watercourse.

Find out about your rights and responsibilities when owning a watercourse on GOV.UK.

Our responsibilities

As a lead local flood authority, we're responsible for managing flood risk from surface water runoff, ordinary watercourses and groundwater.

As an operating authority for ordinary watercourses in Medway, our responsibilities include regulation and enforcement of activity affecting watercourses.

We inspect ordinary watercourses and contact owners if the water flow is blocked or it needs maintenance.

Land drainage consent

If you need to carry out works in, over, under or near an ordinary watercourse, you should contact us to find out if you need land drainage consent under the Land Drainage Act 1991 before you start the work.

Land drainage consent helps to:

  • reduce the risk of flooding
  • reduce the flood risk on specific sites
  • avoid harmful effects on people and the environment.

Applying for consent

If the watercourse is:

  • a main river you’ll need to apply for consent from the Environment Agency
  • an ordinary watercourse (everything else apart from main rivers) you’ll need consent from us (Medway Council) or the North Kent Marshes Internal Drainage Board.

Contact us to discuss your application and check if you need permission:
Email: floodrisk@medway.gov.uk
Phone: 01634 333 333.

Find out more about owning a watercourse on GOV.UK.