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.
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.