Skip to main content

Flooding of Ditches, Streams and Rivers

River or ditch flooding normally occurs as the result of a storm or series of storms over the whole of a river's catchment. These storms are usually of longer duration and are less intense than the storms that cause flash flooding.

The rivers, streams and ditches are the responsibility of the riparian landowners who own land on either bank. If your property is adjacent to a watercourse of any description you are a riparian owner and should be maintaining it regularly. This will have the benefit of reducing the risk of flooding from the watercourse at times of wet weather - both for you and your neighbours.

Flood Warnings

Normally the Environment Agency is able to issue several hours' warning of the likelihood of river flooding using their automatic flood warning system, and by radio and television messages. You can call their Floodline on 0845 988 1188 to find out the latest information on river and coastal flooding, and register to receive automated flood warning messages.

Flooding from Watercourses, other than Main Rivers

Watercourses, other than main rivers, are the responsibility of riparian owners. You are a riparian owner if your property or land is on, or very near, a watercourse. Riparian owners have a duty to keep the watercourse clear of any obstruction to flow and we can serve legal notices on riparian owners to deal with obstructions. Certain "strategic" watercourses, that are known to pose a high risk of property flooding if they become blocked, are checked and maintained by our contractor on a regular basis.

More information about riparian ownership, including the rights and responsibilities of riparian owners, is available on our Riparian Ownership page.

Flooding from a Main River or Critical Ordinary Watercourses

Certain important streams and watercourses are known as Main Rivers and in these instances the Environment Agency have an additional responsibility to maintain water flow and carry out flood defence works. The term 'Main River' needs not reflect the actual size of the river - some are quite small - but the overall effect of that watercourse on the drainage system of surrounding areas. The landowner is still responsible for the physical maintenance of the river.

The route and extent of these Main Rivers within the Borough can be accurately determined from plans held by the Environment Agency.

The Agency provide a "Floodline", which is a 24 hour advice and information service for floods and flood warning on 0845 988 1188.

All watercourses of any description fall to the landowner to maintain, which in some instances may be the Borough Council but more often will be private landowners.

The Council holds a budget to meet its own responsibilities on its own land. It has no money available to carry out land drainage works on privately-owned land.

Discharges to a watercourse

Certain discharges to watercourses require the consent of the Environment Agency, which will be able to advise you on this subject. These discharges include outfalls from septic tanks and private sewerage treatment plants.


If you feel a watercourse may be polluted or you are concerned about the water quality you should contact the Environmental Protection Team.