Water courses include rivers, lakes, privately owned ponds,
canals and coastal waters. They are often visited as recreation
facilities by members of the public, and also used as sources of
water for industrial use and the public water supply. Most of them
exist as balanced ecosystems and are monitored by the Environment
Agency. They are natural environments, with communities of flora
and fauna, which have the potential to cause harm to humans. The
waters are therefore unlikely to be safe to drink.
Controls are in place to ensure protection against flooding, as far
as practicable, and to minimise the risk of pollution of water and
deterioration in its quality. Enquiries regarding quality, or
reports of contamination should be made directly to the Environment
Agency. Telephone their 24 hour helpline number: 0645 333111.
If you own land which is adjacent to a river or watercourse, you
are likely to have certain responsibilities in relation to it.
These relate to litter and obstructions, extraction from and
discharge into the water. You are likely to require consent from
the Environment Agency before carrying out any works on or near the
bank. You are, however, entitled to protect your property from
flooding and the banks from erosion. In general you accept water
from your upstream neighbour and pass it on to your neighbour
downstream in at least the same condition. Contact the Environment
Agency for further information.
Sometimes inland waters are affected by the excessive growth of
naturally occurring algae. The most common situation involves
blue-green algae which can cause algal blooms on lakes and
slow-flowing rivers. The effect of this is to discolour the water,
and sometimes to cause a local odour. The algae produces toxins
which can be fatal to fish, wild animals, livestock and pets.
Humans can experience rashes, eye irritation, vomiting or fever if
they come into contact with, or drink, affected waters. Public
information signs may be in place, but people using recreational
waters should take sensible precautions:
(a) Where possible avoid contact with the water;
(b) Do not enter waters where a visible bloom is
(c) Change and shower after accidental contact with the
(d) Rinse your mouth with clean water, do not swallow, induce
vomiting if a significant
quality has been
(e) Keep pets away from the water.