The Land Drainage Act 1991 requires that a watercourse be maintained by its owner in such a condition that the free flow of water is not impeded. The riparian owner must accept the natural flow from upstream but need not carry out work to cater for increased flows resulting from some types of works carried out upstream, for example a new housing development.
If a riparian owner fails to carry out his responsibilities under the Land Drainage Act, or if anyone else causes a watercourse to become blocked or obstructed, the County and District Councils have powers of enforcement by serving a notice under the Act. If this is ignored, the Council may carry out the necessary remedial works itself and then recharge the person responsible for the full cost incurred. The person responsible may also be prosecuted for nuisance under the Public Health Act 1936.