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The bodies with responsibilities for land drainage within Somerset are:

  • Environment Agency
  • Somerset Council (Lead Local Flood Authority)
  • Internal Drainage Boards
  • Riparian Owners (landowners who own land or property adjacent to a river or watercourse)

The responsible body for land drainage is determined by the clarification of the watercourse and/or the area in which the watercourse is located. There are three broad classifications of water courses and drainage infrastructure and these are summarised below along with the responsible bodies.

Responsible bodies

Main River

These are designated by the Environment Agency and include all or part of The River Parrett, The River Axe, The River Brue, the Huntspill River, The King Sedgemoor Drain, The Sowy River, Cannington Brook and Durleigh Brook.
Environment Agency is the responsible body.

Ordinary Water Courses

These can be a river, stream, ditch (including dry ditches), drain, rhyne, dyke, sewer (other than a public sewer) or any passage through which water flows (culverts) which does not form part of a Main River.

The responsibilities are split between 3 bodies depending on the nature and location of the issue: – Somerset Council (Lead Flood Authority) – Internal Drainage Board – Riparian Owners (adjacent landowners).

Highway Drainage

Drains and other structures taking water from the Highway.

Somerset Council Highways is the responsible body.

We maintain a number of flood relief schemes and drainage infrastructure. The Council will investigate any problems relating to a flood relief scheme that it maintains or drainage problems from any land that it maintains.

The Environment Agency

The Environment Agency is responsible for flood defence in England and Wales. It has powers under the Water Resources Act 1991, Land Drainage Act 1991, and the Environment Act 1995 which provide for:

  • Improving and maintaining Main Rivers and associated infrastructure.
  • Enforcement powers relating to Main Rivers and associated infrastructure
  • Issuing Land Drainage Consents for works affecting or alongside Main Rivers.
  • general supervision over all aspects of flood defence
  • installation and operation of flood warnings
  • construction and maintenance of sea, tidal and fluvial defences

The Environment Agency can be contacted using the following details:

Phone: 03708 506 506


Website:Environment Agency

Somerset Council (Lead Local Flood Authority)

Somerset Council is the Lead Local Flood Authority under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 for Somerset including Sedgemoor’s area. As the Lead Local Flood Authority, we have various responsibilities:

  • Investigate all significant flooding incidents
  • Enforcement powers relating to Ordinary watercourses and associated infrastructure
  • The power to undertake works to manage surface water run-off, ordinary watercourses and groundwater.
  • Statutory consultee on planning applications for major developments with surface water drainage.
  • Maintain register of all flood assets

Somerset Council Local Lead Flood Authority can be contacted using the following details:

Phone: 0300 123 2224


Somerset Council (Highways)

Somerset Council Highways Team have responsibility for maintaining highway drainage and investigating any problems relating to highway drainage. Somerset Council Highways Team can be contacted using the following details:

Phone: 0300 123 2224


Internal Drainage Boards

Internal Drainage Boards are the land drainage authority for the large areas of low-lying land throughout Somerset. They have powers to undertake works on any watercourses within their area, other than “main rivers”. The main drainage channels, known as rhynes, form a major network into which other ‘field’ ditches, maintained by the landowner/farmer can successfully drain. Under the Land Drainage Acts 1991 & 1994 Internal Drainage Boards are responsible for:

  • Enforcement powers relating to Ordinary Watercourses and associated infrastructure in their areas
  • General supervision over all aspects of land drainage within their area
  • improving and maintaining the drainage system, including the operation of pumping stations and sluices
  • regulating activities in and alongside the drainage system (other than those watercourses under the control of the Environment Agency)
  • Issuing Land Drainage Consents for works affecting drainage in their area.

The Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium can be contacted using the following details:

Phone: 01278 789906


Website: Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium

Riparian Owners

If you own land or property adjacent to a river or watercourse you are likely to be a ‘Riparian Owner’ and as such have rights and responsibilities associated with the watercourse. If the watercourse forms a boundary between properties generally you are responsible to the centre of the watercourse. Your legal duties include;

  • the responsibility to pass on the flow without obstruction, pollution or diversion affecting the rights of others.
  • the responsibility for maintaining the watercourse, and for clearing any debris, even if it did not originate from your land.
  • the responsibility for keeping the watercourse clear from any matter that could cause an obstruction, either on your land, or being washed away by high flow and causing an obstruction further downstream.

Further information on riparian ownership can be found on the Environment Agency’s website.

Contact Environmental Services


Phone: 0300 303 7806

Last reviewed: May 28, 2024 by Ian

Next review due: November 28, 2024

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