Living by a river

Guidance for riverside property owners

Response from the EA after freedom of information request September 2022

Re: River Clearance
Thank you for your enquiry about main rivers and weed clearance which was
received on 19 August. We respond to requests under the Freedom of Information
Act 2000 and Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
You ask about the Environment Agency’s responsibility for main rivers and the work
we do to clear weeds. You also ask whether our responsibility arises from a statutory
duty or because the EA receives funding. You are interested in the criteria for and
frequency of this work and the responsibilities of the riparian owner.
Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, the Environment Agency has a
strategic overview of the management of all sources of flooding and for managing
the risk of flooding from main rivers, estuaries and the sea.
We have permissive powers under the Water Resources Act 1991, to maintain and
improve main rivers for the efficient passage of flood flow and the management of
water levels. As these powers are permissive only, the Environment Agency is not
obliged to carry out either maintenance or new works on main rivers.
We use our funding to carry out maintenance, improvement, and construction work
on main rivers. We prioritise our spending according to where it provides the greatest
reduction to flood risk. Our annual maintenance programme includes a range of
activities that are prioritised and timetabled using information from inspections,
maintenance standards, levels of flood risk and from legal and statutory obligations.
Each year we publish our 5-year maintenance programme. This shows what work is
intended to maintain, repair or refurbish assets. You can view the maintenance
planned in your area by doing a post code search on GOV.UK (‘River and Coastal
Maintenance Programme’).

Your rights and responsibilities

If you own land adjoining a watercourse, you have certain rights and responsibilities.  In legal terms you are a ‘riparian owner’.  (A watercourse is any natural or artificial channel through which water flows, such as a river, brook, beck, or mill stream.)

Some of your responsibilities include:

  • maintaining river beds and banks;
  • allowing the flow of water to pass without obstruction;
  • controlling invasive alien species such as Japanese knotweed.

Your rights have been established in common law for many years.  However there are some circumstances in which these rights may be affected by other laws.

More information about your rights and responsibilities, our role, the role of other organisations, working on or near a river and the permissions required can be found in the ‘Living on the edge’ – guide.

For more information see the following web site

Environment Agency


4 Responses to Living by a river

  1. Gh says:

    Trial bbb

  2. Byron says:

    Not really relating to this article but was hoping someone could help me as the council have not responded to my question. Which organisation is it that looks after the footpath next to the Blind Yeo? Is it the council and if so is it Clevedon Council or North Somerset? Any guidance would be most appreciated, just trying to see if I can organised a tree to be pruned that is overhanging my garden.

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