Living next to a watercourse

Rights of a riparian owner

As a riparian owner:

  • You are presumed to own the land up to the centre of the watercourse next to your property boundary, unless it is known to be owned by others
  • You have the right to receive flow of water in its natural state, without undue interference in quantity or quality
  • You have the right to protect your property from flooding, and your land from erosion. You may need the consent of the lead local flood authority (Norfolk County Council) or Environment Agency for such works
  • You have the right to fish in your watercourse, but this must be by legal methods and with a valid Environment Agency rod licence
  • You can abstract a maximum of 20 cubic metres of water per day for the domestic purposes of your own household or for agricultural use from a watercourse (excluding spray irrigation), at a point that directly adjoins your land. You do not need a licence for this. Most other types of abstraction will require a licence from the Environment Agency

Working on a watercourse

Before starting any work on or adjacent to a watercourse, you must submit plans to the lead local flood authority (Norfolk County Council) to determine whether you require our consent or that of other authorities.

You may also require planning permission if you propose to go beyond the curtilage of your boundary. If the work affects sites of known conservation or archaeological value, you may need further permissions from the relevant authorities. All environmental issues must be considered, including flood risk, wildlife conservation, fisheries, and reshaping of the river and landscape.