Map of ordinary watercourses

This map might not show every ordinary watercourse in Hertfordshire. If a watercourse isn't on the map, contact us to check whether it's classified as an ordinary watercourse.


What is an ordinary watercourse?

An ordinary watercourse is any channel that water flows through, which isn't part of the main river network. It could be a river, stream, ditch, drain or brook.

Under common law, ordinary watercourses are the responsibility of the riparian owner. This is whoever owns the land that the watercourse flows through or alongside.

There are over 1200km of known ordinary watercourses in Hertfordshire. This network contributes actively in the flood risk management through the county by its drainage function.

If you are unsure as to whether a particular watercourse is considered an ordinary watercourse, check our map or contact us.


Consent for works on ordinary watercourses

If you are planning to carry out any works that may affect the flow or storage of water in an ordinary watercourse, you must seek consent from the relevant authority. 

As a Lead Local Flood Authority, Hertfordshire County Council is the regulatory body for works on ordinary watercourses in the county. The ordinary watercourse regulation controls certain activities and works that may obstruct the flow of the watercourse and therefore disrupt its ability to drain areas or transfer water.


The maintenance of an ordinary watercourse lies with the riparian owner. This includes maintenance of the flow within the channel, of its banks and bed and structures on it.

As the Lead Local Flood Authority, we apply the Land Drainage Act 1991 for works on ordinary watercourses. This means we may serve notice on the riparian owner to maintain the flow through the channel.

Consentable works

Any works that directly affect the flow of water in the ordinary watercourse will need our consent following the consent process. This includes any permanent and/or temporary works.

Maintenance works do not require consent.

If you are unsure as to whether you need consent, please contact us to seek advice.



Policies and service standards

The Lead Local Flood Authority has developed a set of policies as a basis of how we will comply with the National Flood Risk Management Strategy within our regulatory role on the ordinary watercourse network.

Please note this policy will be approved as part of the 2017/18 Local Flood Risk Management Strategy review.  

Our ordinary watercourses service standards set out how we carry out the activities related to ordinary watercourses including:

  • Managing the consenting and enforcement activities on ordinary watercourses
  • The timeframes for monitoring and inspecting ordinary watercourses in accordance with their indicative level of flood risk (low, medium or high)
  • The timeframes for responding to any complaints or notifications about an ordinary watercourse (corresponding to its level of flood risk)
  • Performance indicators to be used against the above service areas.


Contact us about watercourses

Call: 01992 555839