Property Rights in France - Water

  1. Dispersal of Rainwater
  2. Spring Water
  3. Drainage Servitudes
  4. Rivers and Streams
  5. Towpath Usage
  6. Fishing Rights
  7. Shoreline Properties

4. Rivers and Streams in France

There are over 250,000 kilometres of privately owned rivers and streams in France.

If you have a watercourse going through or at the perimeter of your property, and you are unsure whether it is public or private property, you should contact your Direction départemental de l’équipement (DDE) who will be based in your Préfecture.

If you are lucky enough to be the owner of a private stretch of river or stream then it is important to remember that it is ownership of the bed only and not the water itself.

Except in the case of spring water (which belongs to the owner of the property), all water is public property, in the sense that it belongs to no one and everyone!

This implies that anyone is permitted to navigate down a stretch of river, whether public or private, but they are not entitled to make use of the riverbank itself.

Accordingly, if it is necessary to go on private property to gain access to the river, you need the permission of the owner.

If the river is entirely within the bounds of your property then you own the whole of the bed. If, however, it separates two private properties then each have ownership of half of the riverbed.

The law requires that you undertake regular maintenance of the riverbed and riverbank to ensure the proper flow of water and development of flora and fauna.

Owners are entitled to extract water from the river for their own private use, including, if required, the installation of pumping equipment for this purpose, provided it is on their own land.

Next: Towpaths

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