Calling all property owners: are you doing your bit to prevent flooding?

Did you know that if you own a property or land with a watercourse that runs on, under or next to it, then it is your responsibility to keep that watercourse clear?

Last updated:
6 February 2018

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You’re called a riparian owner, and by maintaining the watercourse you are helping to prevent flooding in your local area.

West Sussex County Council – together with East Sussex County Council – is asking people to double check whether any watercourse that goes through their property is clear.

A watercourse is any channel above or below ground that water flows through, such as a river, brook, ditch or stream.

The water has to flow freely through your land.

Any obstructions – such as garden waste or rubbish - may increase the risk of flooding at your own property or it could cause flooding further down at a neighbour’s property or elsewhere.

West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, Lionel Barnard, said: “We want property owners to think about their land and if they have a watercourse running through it, adjoining it, or under it.

If they do, then the chances are it is their responsibility to maintain it.

Riparian owners are responsible for removing any debris that obstructs the flow of water, managing vegetation within the channel and making sure it runs free.”

He added: “A well-maintained watercourse can play a significant role in preventing local flooding.

It helps to keep land drained, keeps surface water under control, and allows water to escape more efficiently – all the reasons that the watercourse is there in the first place.

Because of the potential flood risks, if you are planning any type of work within or next to a watercourse other than basic maintenance, you may require consent from the local authority or the Environment Agency.”

The latest up-to-date information about riparian ownership can be found by visiting the Flooding pages.

In West Sussex, the district and borough councils are the first point of contact for residents with queries about whether a watercourse is their responsibility.

Alternatively, email:

West Sussex County Council also has its Operation Watershed Fund available, which is for communities who are willing to come together and maintain a ditch or watercourse that has become overgrown or blocked in some way.

For more information email: or visit the Operation Watershed pages in the search bar.

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