The defendant, owner of the higher land, filled in a disused clay pit, and squeezed out water from an osier bed with the result that more water flowed onto the neighbouring plaintiff’s land causing damage. The plaintiff sought damages and an injunction.
Held: The defendant was not liable under Rylands. A defendant land owner is under no obligation to receive water from the neighbour’s land but if the use of his land by him in turning the water away is unreasonable and is resulting to damage to a higher occupier, which the plaintiff is, then a nuisance is created.
Piers Ashworth QC said: ‘an occupier is under no obligation to prevent water that has come naturally on to his land and has not been artificially retained there or artificially diverted from passing naturally to his neighbour’s land’, though ‘the common law rule is that the lower occupier has no ground of complaint and no cause of action against the higher occupier for permitting the natural, unconcentrated flow of water, whether on or under the surface, to pass from the higher to the lower land, but that at the same time the lower occupier is under no obligation to receive it. He may put up barriers, or otherwise pen it back, even though this may cause damage to a higher occupier. However, the lower occupier’s right to pen back the water is not absolute.’
Piers Ashworth QC
 QB 339,  2 WLR 117,  1 All ER 637, Times 13-Aug-1986
Cited – Rylands v Fletcher HL 1868
The defendant had constructed a reservoir to supply water to his mill. Water escaped into nearby disused mineshafts, and in turn flooded the plaintiff’s mine. The defendant appealed a finding that he was liable in damages.
Held: The defendant . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 11 May 2022; Ref: scu.424204