A number of bodies have an interest in land drainage which is regulated under the Land Drainage Act 1991. They include Local Authorities, Natural Resources Wales, and riparian owners. Each has a role to play in the mitigation of flooding.  

Monmouthshire County Council is not responsible for land drainage, but is able to take action under the Land Drainage Act on matters of land drainage, particularly where a blocked watercourse is likely to lead to flooding.

Someone who owns property which is next to a watercourse or has a watercourse running through it is called a riparian owner. Under common law, riparian owners have certain rights and responsibilities relating to the stretch of watercourse that flows through or alongside their land.  

Your rights as a riparian owner include:

  • You are presumed to own the land up to the centre of the watercourse, 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 against flooding from the watercourse and to prevent erosion of the watercourse banks or any nearby structures;
  • You have the right to fish in your watercourse, although this must be by legal methods and with an appropriate rod licence;
  • Without needing a 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, excluding spray irrigation, from a watercourse at a point that directly adjoins your land. Most other types of abstraction will require a licence from Natural Resources Wales.

Before starting any work on or adjacent to a watercourse, you must check with either Natural Resources Wales (main rivers) or Monmouthshire County Council (ordinary watercourses) to determine whether you require any permits or consents. 

If the work has the potential to impact upon the surrounding environment it may be necessary to obtain other licenses, consents, approvals or further permissions (including planning permission) which may be required in law from the relevant authorities. Environmental issues, including pollution, flood risk, wildlife conservation, fisheries, and reshaping of the river and landscape, must all be considered.

Your responsibilities as a riparian owner include:

  • To maintain the watercourse and to clear any obstructions (natural or otherwise) so the normal flow of water is not impeded;
  • Maintain the bed and banks of the watercourse (including trees and shrubs growing on the banks), and for clearing any debris, natural or otherwise, including litter and animal carcasses, even if it did not originate from your land;
  • To accept the natural flow from your upstream neighbour and transfer it downstream without obstruction, pollution or diversion;
  • To accept flood flows through your land, even if caused by inadequate capacity downstream, as there is no common law duty to improve a watercourse;
  • You must not cause any obstructions to the free passage of fish;
  • Keeping the bed and banks clear of any matter that could cause an obstruction, either on your land or by being washed away by high flow to obstruct a structure downstream;
  • Keeping clear any structures that you own such as culverts, trash screens, weirs and mill gates.

Failure to carry out your responsibilities could result in possible civil action from others.