If you own land adjoining, above or with a watercourse running through it, in legal terms you are a riparian owner and you have certain rights and responsibilities. If you rent the land you should agree with the owner who should manage these rights and responsibilities.
Smaller watercourses, ditches and drains, known as “ordinary watercourses” play an important role in managing flood risk to people and properties in Cambridgeshire That is why it is important to ensure that they are well maintained and kept free from debris and obstructions and do not become overgrown.
The deeds to a property may indicate who the riparian owner is but this is not always the case. The law therefore presumes, in the absence of contrary evidence, that land adjoining a watercourse includes the watercourse. If there is nothing specific in the property deeds and unless there is something to establish contrary intention, the riparian owner is responsible for the watercourse. A ditch alongside a road is normally owned by the adjacent landowner.
Ditches that run alongside a highway generally do not form part of the highway (since they do not assist the free passage along the highway) and remain the responsibility of the landowner or occupier.
Your property may include a watercourse that runs through a culvert. You have the same responsibilities for the upkeep of a culvert as if it was an open watercourse.
Please see this leaflet for more information on your rights and responsibilities as a riparian owner.