According to the Environment Agency, a watercourse is ‘…any natural or artificial channel above or below ground through which water flows, such as a river, brook, beck, ditch, mill stream or culvert.’ Ref Living on the Edge, Environment Agency 2014.
- Main rivers include rivers, larger streams and smaller watercourses of strategic drainage importance.
- Ordinary watercourse are rivers, streams, ditches, drains, sluices and so on which do not form part of a main river.
Owners of land that is next to or includes a watercourse have riparian rights and responsibilities. There may be a number of parties with riparian rights and responsibilities along the length of a watercourse, particularly where it runs along a boundary between two properties. Where land is rented, the parties should agree who is responsible for the watercourse.
Riparian landowners are responsible for:
- Accepting upstream water and transferring it freely to their downstream neighbour without obstruction, pollution or diversion affecting the rights of others.
- Maintaining the bed and banks of the watercourse and for clearing debris that could cause an obstruction on their land or by being washed downstream.
- Keeping structures such as culverts, weirs and gates clear of debris.
- Protecting the property from seepage through banks.
- Not using the watercourse for the disposal of any form of garden or other waste.
- Notifying the Environment Agency and the relevant risk management authority where works are planned to a structure that acts as an obstruction to a watercourse.
Risk management authorities have powers over and responsibilities for watercourse management. These include:
Works to ordinary watercourses other than cleaning and routine maintenance must be approved by the Lead Local Flood Authority. They may also require planning consent from the local authority, who will consult with the Environment Agency.
The Lead Local Flood Authority has powers to enforce riparian responsibilities and can serve notice on owners and carry out works themselves if watercourses become blocked resulting in a flood risk or a health hazard.
It may be necessary to obtain a licence from the Environment Agency to abstract water from or impound water on a watercourse.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Catchment flood management plans.
- Coastal defences.
- Flood and Water Management Act.
- Flood insurance.
- Flood risk.
- River engineering.
- Thames barrier.
- The SUDS manual.
- Water Act 2014.
- Water engineering.
- Water framework directive.
 External references
Featured articles and news
Around 6,000 elephants were involved in the construction of the world's largest religious monument, Angkor Wat.
Government publishes new guidance document for landlords about the April 2018 changes.
ICE publish new briefing sheet on municipal energy transmission, retailing, and legislation.
CIOB awards include origami floor joists and BIM MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).
The first CIC briefing of 2017 covered a construction economic forecast, illegal migrant workers, and a Crossrail 2 update.
Have a look at this competition-winning proposal for a new mountain range-like complex in China.
BRE and Environment Agency join forces to try and build flood resilience into the fabric of Britain.
This spherical house in Vienna is considered a micro-nation - the Republic of Kugelmugel.
Commission has been awarded for a floating church designed after a pair of organ bellows.
"Teachers and schools do not understand construction very well" and need to do more, according to Carol Lynch.
ICE examine the use of structural engineering codes and the use of withdrawn British Standards.