Ditches and watercourses

Riparian responsibilities

If you have a ditch or watercourse within or adjacent to your land, you are a riparian owner. This means that you have responsibilities under the Land Drainage Act to ensure that the flow of water is not obstructed; and that the watercourse and any structures over or within it are suitably maintained. For more information, please see the Rights and responsibilities of living by a watercourse.pdf [pdf] 228KB, and relevant West Sussex County Council produced documents. 

Additional information can be found in the Land Drainage Byelaws.pdf [pdf] 202KB  and Guidelines.pdf [pdf] 20KB

Main rivers

Main rivers are the watercourses shown on Environment Agency flood risk mapping. Responsibility lies with the riparian owner and enforcement is undertaken by the Environment Agency.                    

Ordinary watercourses

Ordinary watercourses include all ditches and watercourses not designated as main rivers by the Environment Agency. Responsibility lies with the riparian owner and enforcement is undertaken by Arun District Council.                  

Land drainage consent

For all works affecting a watercourse, such as culverting, land drainage consent is required. For works on ordinary watercourses, the form and guidance is available from West Sussex County Council. For main rivers, the flood defence consent form and guidance are available from the Environment Agency.             

Internal drainage district

The River Arun Internal Drainage District is a drainage sensitive area managed by the Environment Agency.



Trunk roads

Drainage issues on trunk roads such as the A27 should be reported to Highways England.

Other public roads

Drainage issues on all other public roads in the district should be reported to the Highways department at West Sussex County Council.                     

Groundwater and surface water

Flooding from groundwater and surface water should be reported to West Sussex County Council.




Public sewers and lateral drains are the responsibility of Southern Water.                  


Cesspits and drains serving only one property within the property boundary are the responsibility of the property owner. 

Sewer pipes