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Generally legal liability does not attach where water flows naturally across a boundary (as a result of rain, floods, or the slope of the land). If the flow of water is caused directly or indirectly by a neighbour's activities, the occupier may be able to take legal action to stop it happening again and for compensation for any damage caused. A drainage easement (normally registered on the land title documents) gives a person the legal authority to direct water onto another's land.

If there is no permission an occupier has a right to sue:

  • where the flow is intentional (that is, a trespass), for example, if a neighbour deliberately directs a hose on to the occupier's land
  • where the flow is caused by the neighbour's negligence and it causes damage, for example, because of the careless construction of a tank or dam, or leaving the hose on
  • where the flow occurs as the result of another activity and constitutes a nuisance - for example, through a fixed garden sprinkler, overflowing drains and downpipes, running taps, modification of normal watercourses, or the cementing of large areas.

Problems can also arise where neighbours share a stream, lake or other waterway and one person's activities pollute the water. A complaint should be made to the local council, which has power to control water pollution. Complaints can also be made to the local Natural Resources Management Board.

Water  :  Last Revised: Thu Nov 20th 2014
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.