Rivers maintenance and flood management

Through the undertaking of regular maintenance works the DfI Rivers seeks to ensure the free flow of water in designated watercourses. This is necessary to alleviate flooding and to assist land drainage.

Methods to assist free flow of water

In open watercourses the works include clearing silt and gravel deposits which build up naturally in the channel and can restrict the flow of water. Debris such as fallen trees which can lead to blockages in watercourse channels is removed.

Some watercourses are piped under towns and cities and these are known as culverts. There is a substantial network of these, and many are aged and in need of attention. This is addressed by means of a comprehensive inspection and survey programme to assess their structural condition. The DfI Rivers carries out maintenance work along the lengths of these culverts, and at their inlets where metal screens, known as grilles, are often located to prevent debris entering them. These are regularly inspected and offending debris is removed.

Rolling programme

The DfI Rivers undertakes a rolling programme of planned inspection of designated watercourses to identify where maintenance work is required. From this information a programme of maintenance is compiled and published annually. However, maintenance needs can be unpredictable, and works frequently require to be re-prioritised.

Each year DfI Rivers carries out routine maintenance work on designated main, minor and urban watercourses. Minor works of repair/refurbishment to ancillary structures and installations are also carried out.

Details about proposed work, how to make representations and the date by which they should be received, are included in an explanatory notice for the appropriate year.

Annual Watercourse Maintenance Programme 2022-23 - explanatory notice

The Department for Infrastructure for Northern Ireland hereby gives Notice, in pursuance of Regulation 8 (1) of the Drainage (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017, of proposed routine maintenance works on the accompanying lists of main, minor and urban watercourses.

In addition to the foregoing, additional minor works of structural repair/refurbishment to ancillary structures and installations (ancillary works) are also listed. 

Information on the watercourses and associated proposed works is available through a GIS viewer (link below) – Once opened zoom and click on any watercourse to obtain information on its name, and the type of proposed maintenance work (where this has been identified). 

Please note that urban watercourses and urban reaches of main and minor watercourses are inspected and maintained in the same year, so proposed works for these areas will not be known at this time.  Further details of the locations along the rivers concerned are available by contacting DfI Rivers HQ Office at the address below. 

The Work may include the following:

  • necessary removal of channel silt and/or aquatic weed growth
  • removal of obstructions from the channel which restrict the free flow of water
  • general maintenance (which may include upgrade or replacement if necessary) of grilles, culverts, manholes, flap-valves and quays
  • construction, repair or protection of flood defences, culverts, revetments and watercourse structures
  • measures for the protection or rehabilitation of fishery, conservation or other interests
  • Vegetation management

The Department will carry out the work using environmentally sensitive river engineering techniques.  Additionally, an assessment is carried out on each watercourse regarding biodiversity and against known natural and built heritage designations.  A summary of this information is available under Environmental Scoping.  From this scoping, any works within, or with the potential to impact upon a Natura 2000 site will be the subject of a Habitats Regulations Assessment.

The Department reserves the right to alter the maintenance programme if required. This may include additional works deemed as emergency.

The Department may also carry out necessary maintenance work on certain quays on Lough Neagh to provide navigable access; these will be carried out in response to request.  Maintenance works may also be carried out on designated sea defences in response to need.

Having determined that the proposed works are not, by reason amongst other things of their nature, size or location, likely to have significant environmental effects it is the Department's intention not to prepare an Environmental Statement.

In accordance with Regulation 8 (1) of the Regulations representations may be made in writing to the Department at the address given below, with regard to its intention not to prepare an Environmental Statement. The closing date for receipt of representations is 1 May 2022. 

The Department will consult with Conservation and Fisheries organisations on the works programme.  Any representations, enquiries or requests for further information should be sent to:

DfI Rivers,
49 Tullywiggan Road,
Co Tyrone
BT80 8SG
  • Telephone:  028 8676 8300

Map of Watercourse Maintenance Programme 2022-23

This map shows details of designated watercourses (Approved by the Drainage Council), that are to be maintained by the DfI Rivers during the 2022-23 financial period. 

Ancillary works 2022-23

Details about planned minor works of repair/refurbishment to ancillary structures and installations at watercourses shown by Area office.

Environmental Scoping of proposed routine maintenance works of main, minor and urban watercourses by area for 2022-23.

Planning works that affect a watercourse

If you plan to discharge to a watercourse or intend to carry out works that will impact on the free flow of a watercourse; approval is required from DfI Rivers.

In such cases, an application form should be completed and, along with the information required, forwarded to the appropriate DfI Rivers office for assessment and response. An application form can be downloaded from the link below.

Your questions answered

What should I do in the event of a flooding incident?

The way to report a flood is to phone 0300 2000 100. This single telephone number is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You don't have to decide which organisation you need to ring and you don't have to contact the DfI Rivers, DfI Roads or NI Water - this will be done for you. When you ring, a member of staff will take all your details and contact the appropriate agency on your behalf. This is a non emergency number so if you are in danger, call the emergency services on 999. 

Who do I contact about flooding from an overflowing watercourse?

Contact your local DfI Rivers office in writing. They will carry out an investigation to identify the cause of the flooding, and will aim to provide a substantive response within 15 working days.

What is a 'designated' watercourse?

DfI Rivers undertakes maintenance responsibilities on watercourses that are classed as designated; these are watercourses that have been approved for maintenance at public expense by the Drainage Council for Northern Ireland. All other watercourses are classed as non-designated and their maintenance is the responsibility of the riparian land owners.

My flooding was caused by a neighbour's blocked watercourse - who do I contact?

You should write to your local DfI Rivers Area Office. They will confirm whether or not the watercourse in question has been designated for maintenance at public expense by the Drainage Council for Northern Ireland. If the watercourse is designated DfI Rivers staff will investigate the problem and take the necessary remedial action if appropriate. If the watercourse is undesignated the DfI Rivers has legislative powers to require the landowner(s) to remove any blockage and ensure the free flow of water.

Do I need approval to carry out works near to a watercourse?

Yes. You need approval in writing from the DfI Rivers to undertake any works affecting the flow in a watercourse. You should write to your local DfI Rivers office requesting approval to carry out the required works and enclose a site location map and details of your proposal. Our consent is necessary to protect you and others from being adversely affected by flooding. Failure to obtain the necessary approval is an offence under the Drainage (Northern Ireland) Order 1973 and may lead to legal proceedings.

How do I find out if my property is at risk of flooding?

At present this service is not available online. Write to your local DfI Rivers office enclosing your full postal address. We will respond and provide you with any known history of flooding for that address.

My property was recently flooded by an overflowing watercourse -who do I contact for compensation?

DfI Rivers is not liable for any damage caused by the overflowing of any watercourse. Contact your insurance company regarding compensation for any flooding event.

Who do I contact to report incidents of pollution in a watercourse?

Water pollution is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA). All incidents of water pollution should be reported to NIEA as soon as possible via the pollution hotline number on 0800 80 70 60 or by emailing: emergency-pollution@daera-ni.gov.uk

Who do I contact to report a dead animal in a watercourse?

In the event that the carcass is causing a blockage in the watercourse you should contact your local DfI Rivers office to report this. If the carcass is not causing a blockage you should contact the Environmental Health Section of your local District Council.

Who do I contact to report dumping/littering in a watercourse?

In the event that the refuse being dumped is causing a blockage in the watercourse you should contact your local DfI Rivers office to report this. If the refuse is not causing a blockage you should contact your local District Council.

Who do I contact to report vermin in a watercourse near my home?

You should contact your local District Council who are responsible for pest control.

Where can I get information about fishing in a watercourse?

You can find information about where fishing is permitted / how to obtain the necessary licence on the angling pages of the nidirect website.

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