Main river map for England: proposed changes and decisions

Proposed designation changes to the main river map, notices from the Environment Agency, how to comment or appeal, and final decision notices.

Main river map

The main river map shows which rivers in England are designated as ‘main rivers’. Other rivers are called ‘ordinary watercourses’.

The main river map also shows where the Environment Agency intends to make changes. These are highlighted as ‘additions’ and ‘deletions’.

Main rivers are usually larger rivers and streams. The Environment Agency carries out maintenance, improvement or construction work on main rivers to manage flood risk.

Lead local flood authorities, district councils and internal drainage boards carry out flood risk management work on ordinary watercourses.

View the main river map.

In England, the Environment Agency decides which watercourses are main rivers. It consults with other risk management authorities and the public before making these decisions. The main river map is then updated to reflect these changes.

A river’s designation may affect you if you:

  • live by a river
  • own land or property by a river
  • need to carry out works in or near a river

Read guidance about the rights and responsibilities of riverside ownership.

Why we change the main river map

There are 2 reasons why the Environment Agency changes the main river map.

Designation changes

This is where the designation of the river changes to or from a main river. This means there is a change in who has legal power to carry out flood risk management work.

Factual changes

This is where the Environment Agency amends sections of the main river map to reflect changes in the environment or to correct inaccuracies. These changes only correct the line of the main river and do not change who has legal power to carry out flood risk management work.

Decision Notices

Following the public consultation for changes, the Environment Agency takes decisions on whether to transfer flood risk management activities for watercourses, either to a main river or to an ordinary watercourse.

Statutory guidance to the Environment Agency

This guidance sets out the basis on which the Environment Agency should decide whether or not a river or watercourse is treated as a ‘main river’.

Published 13 July 2015
Last updated 22 July 2019 + show all updates
  1. Rationalising the Main River Network (RMRN): De-maining consultation close. Notices removed from lists

  2. Decision notices published for Isle of Axholme and Stour Mashes catchments

  3. Norfolk stretches removed from Decision Notices list as no decision has been made on these yet

  4. Addition of Boloney River, Suffolk to Factual changes Addition of River Tud, Tunstall Dyke and Waxham New Cut, Norfolk to Decision notices

  5. Addition of notice of consultation for the Norfolk designation de-maining main river stretches

  6. Addition of the published legal decision notices of main river stretches

  7. Rationalising the main river network: de-maining proposal notices added

  8. Statutory guidance to the Environment Agency added.

  9. Six decision notices added.

  10. 9 decision notices have been added to the collection.

  11. Decision notice for Congresbury Yeo, Congresbury added.

  12. Additional documnets have been added.

  13. First published.