Private water body: what is the regulation?

Buying a private water body can be useful to produce fish, irrigate one’s crops, provide water to life stock or fight a fire. But it can also help to do a hobby like fishing or hunting.

What is a water body?

It is the area of the property which is bought, sold, or rented, that qualifies it as a water body or pond. If it is less than 1,000 m², a water body is described as "pool", and therefore subject to no specific regulations. If the property has a surface area of water greater than 1,000 m², we are in the presence of a pond, which is likely to fall into one of the categories provided by law; it is therefore important to know its date of creation. Indeed, the water law dated January 3, 1992 struck a profound change in the legislation.

But water bodies are complex works, which may fall under several regulations: water legislation on fishing, on town planning, on the environment, even the Civil Code. Moreover, such an acquisition is worth considering. It is important that the parties and their notary tackle several questions, in order to avoid setbacks: what surface, when was it created, what is its legal status, its supply mode, equipment….?

Depending on the responses, the applicable regulations will be more or less dense, more, or less complex; in extreme cases, the competent administration may even go so far as requesting the deletion of the water body, which is not in keeping with the standards.

Water body: maintenance, draining


Once the acquisition of the water body is completed, one needs to remain careful. Indeed, all owners must maintain their property (manage the vegetation on the dams and the banks, ensure proper safety conditions for people and structures, etc.), regularly check the proper functioning of the structures (drainage system, end-of-pipe fish condition ..), carry out the required changes (setting up a diversion for example when the pond is on a watercourse) after favorable notice to the competent authority, carry out regular draining (respecting the periods, the frequency, the protection of the environment, sediment management ...) and use the opportunity to inspect the water body and its infrastructures, more thoroughly.


It must be done every 2 to 5 years, when the hydrological conditions are optimal and by notifying the competent services, at least 15 days in advance. The Civil Code specifies that properties downstream should not be drained or flooded. The Environmental Code adds that the following must be respected: the outlet of any structure on a watercourse, a minimum flow known as "reserved flow" (10% of the average flow of the watercourse). The owner will have to monitor the present species, mainly plants, by avoiding or fighting against the propagation of those, which are invasive (ex. The Primrose willow).

Frequently asked questions