HS6: Maintenance of designed/engineered water bodies

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the maintenance of designed/engineered water bodies option.

How much will be paid

£440 per hectare (ha)

Where to use this option

It’s available for Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier and Higher Tier on:

  • water bodies with an artificially retained area of open standing water
  • the banks of the water body and buffer strips around associated features (such as leats and culverts)

Where this option cannot be used

  • To include areas of water - only land can be included in a claim
  • For field ponds dug to below the water table
  • For water meadows (both bedwork and catch meadow systems)
  • For water bodies that are covered by the Reservoirs Act 1975
  • For raised water bodies that are deemed at high-risk by the Environment Agency under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010

You can locate these options and supplements on the same area as this option.

How this option will benefit the environment

It protects the banks and associated historic built water-control features of designed or engineered historic water bodies. It maintains or strengthens the role of these features in water quality management.

Maintaining archaeological and historic features will conserve the character of the farm and protect England’s heritage for future generations. This option can also help to maintain and conserve landscape character.


If you’re selected for a site visit, we will check that delivery of the aims is being met and the prohibited activities have not been carried out. This will ensure the environmental benefits are being delivered.

Throughout the year there will be a permanently vegetated 4 metre (m) grass buffer strip around the water body, and a permanently vegetated 2m grass buffer strip around any associated features outside the 4m buffer. Bare ground will be kept to a minimum and no more than a quarter of the water body will be permanently shaded. Scrub and undesirable species will cover no more than 5% of the perimeter/bank.

Maintenance will be carried out on a ‘like for like’ basis, traditional materials and methods should be used unless maintaining any existing non-traditional material. A structures maintenance record will be kept using the template provided.

Prohibited activities

To achieve the aims and deliver the environmental benefits, do not carry out any of the following activities.

  • Alter the depth, shape, profile and design of the built water body and associated engineering
  • Erect new fences

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you have not carried out any prohibited activities.

To assist you in achieving the aims and deliver the environmental benefits for this option, we recommend that you use best practice.

We recommend that you:

  • establish or maintain a permanently vegetated buffer strip at least 4m wide on the perimeter or bank of the main water body
  • establish or maintain a permanently vegetated buffer strip at least 2m wide around any associated features outside the 4m buffer strip
  • manage the buffer strips to make sure there is no more than 5% bare ground
  • make sure that no more than 25% of the water surface is in permanent shade
  • control scrub and undesirable plant species so that there is no more than 5% covering the banks of the water body by year 2
  • remove all cut material
  • keep the character of the feature in its local setting by:
    • carrying out maintenance works and minor repairs on structural historic or archaeological features on a ‘like-for-like’ basis
    • keeping and maintaining any non-traditional material that was previously used to repair or re-clad the structures

Keeping records

Where there is uncertainty about whether the aims of the options have been delivered, we will take into account any records or evidence you may have kept demonstrating delivery of the aims of the option. This will include any steps you’ve taken to follow the recommended management set out above. It’s your responsibility to keep such records if you want to rely on these to support your claim.

  • The structures maintenance record detailed in the aim.

Additional guidance and advice

The following advice is helpful, but they are not requirements for this item.

Maintenance work

Annual maintenance

Carry out the routine work needed to protect structures and features to make sure they survive. This will help to identify and prevent the start of serious structural problems, which should help to avoid expensive restoration in the future.

Typical maintenance work can include:

  • regularly inspecting buffer strips to make sure no scrub is developing
  • making sure the buffer strips are not on compacted soil so that water can infiltrate
  • inspecting the water body to make sure it is clear, and inspecting associated structures to make sure they are working properly
  • undertaking minor repairs such as clearing vegetation from leats, sluices, hatches and dams, and repointing retaining walls

Summer is usually the best time for inspections and minor repair works, as water levels are lower and more of the water structures are visible.

Further information

Read more information about Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier and Higher Tier to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 9 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. HS6 option updated

  2. The Keeping records section of this page has been updated

  3. Updated keeping records section for evidence required with claim.

  4. Updated for 2017 applications.

  5. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  6. First published.