Environmental problems During a flood


Watercourses are rivers, streams and ditches through which water flows. Where a watercourse is channelled through a pipe underground, it is called a 'culverted watercourse'.

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

Main Rivers

Main rivers are usually larger rivers and streams. All main rivers are shown on the Main River Map. The Environment Agency manages flood risk from main rivers in Manchester. To report a problem with a main river, contact the Environment Agency.

Ordinary Watercourses    

All non-main rivers are called 'ordinary watercourses'. Manchester City Council manages flood risk from ordinary watercourses in Manchester.

Who is responsible

The owner of a main river or ordinary watercourse is called the ‘riparian owner’. The landowner is usually the riparian owner for the stretch of watercourse which runs on or under their land. Where a watercourse forms a property boundary, the landowner is joint riparian owner with the neighbouring landowner. Maintenance is the responsibility of the ‘riparian owner’. 

This will apply unless there is evidence someone else is responsible, for example a clause in the deeds.

As a riparian owner 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.

Works affecting watercourses

If you are planning works which will affect a main river or ordinary watercourse, you must apply for the relevant consent for works affecting watercourses, even if you are the riparian owner.

For main rivers, contact the Environment Agency.

Was this page helpful?

Fields marked * cannot be left blank

Feedback submitted to us on this form is monitored but you won’t receive a reply. In an emergency, visit our emergency contact details page. Please don't include any personal or financial information, for example your National Insurance or credit card numbers.