Manchester City Council

Environmental problems Flooding and drainage

Land drainage

Land Drains are referred to as 'watercourses' and include all rivers, streams, ditches, drains, cuts, culverts (piped sections), dikes, sluices, ponds and passages through which water flows.

Watercourses are divided into two categories – ‘ordinary watercourses’ and 'main rivers'.

Ordinary watercourses

The maintenance is the responsibility of the landowner but we have powers to regulate. If the land owner fails to carry out necessary maintenance, then we can serve a notice requiring them to undertake the necessary works.

Failure to comply with such a notice may result in us undertaking the work and recharging the owner the costs and may also expose the owner to liability for the cost of any damage caused by flooding.

In general we work with landowners to maintain and improve watercourses.

As a landowner, your main responsibilities are:

  • ensuring the flow of water without obstruction, pollution or diversion;
  • maintaining the bed and banks of the watercourse (including trees and shrubs growing on the banks) and for clearing all debris, even if it did not originate from your land; and
  • keeping the bed and banks clear from anything that could cause an obstruction either on your land, or by being washed away by high flow to obstruct at a structure downstream.

We have a responsibility for natural drainage and have powers associated with the prevention, mitigation and remedying of flood damage, we also maintain and improve existing watercourses and construct new works for the benefit of its area.

Main rivers

The Environment Agency has enforcement powers on a number of "main rivers" in Manchester, these include the River Mersey, River Medlock, River Irk, etc.

Individual landowners are responsible for making sure rivers are not obstructed on their land, but they have legal powers to make landowners remove watercourse obstructions. In addition, owners must not carry out works affecting a river without prior consent from them.

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