Property owners not allowed to impede water flow

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
We live in a very hilly part of our town where a creek is located beside our property. My neighbor who lives in the lower part of the hill made a construction which prevented the flow of the water from the creek. Since the water going down the hill was blocked, the water became stagnant and went around my property which caused frequent flooding in my land.

I want to confront my neighbor about this, but I am not sure if what he did was illegal. Because of this I want to know if there is any law I can use in my situation about the managing of the flow of the water. Thank you for your advice!
Stephen

Dear Stephen,
It appears that your concern is about the easement of the water from the creek surrounding your and your neighbor’s property. The Civil Code of the Philippines has a provision on the law on easements relating to waters relevant to your concern which states that:

“Article 637. Lower estates are obliged to receive the waters which naturally and without the intervention of man descend from the higher estates, as well as the stones or earth which they carry with them.


The owner of the lower estate cannot construct works which will impede this easement; neither can the owner of the higher estate make works which will increase the burden.” (Emphasis supplied)

As can be gleaned from this cited law, there is a prohibition against the construction of a work by the owner of the lower estate that will block the natural flow of the water which the said land owner is obligated to allow to flow.

However, this provision from the Civil Code was superseded by Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1067 known as The Water Code of the Philippines. This law, which similarly reflects the aforementioned Civil Code provision, now qualifies the restriction on the construction of works that may block the flow of water. According to Article 50 of P.D. No 1076:

“Article 50. Lower estates are obliged to receive the waters which naturally and without the intervention of man flow from the higher estate, as well as the stone or earth which they carry with them.

The owner of the lower estate can not construct works which will impede this natural flow, unless he provides an alternative method of drainage; neither can the owner of the higher estate make works which will increase this natural flow.” (Emphasis supplied)

From this law, the owner of the lower estate is now allowed to construct structures that may impede the natural flow of water as long as there is an alternative route for the downward flow of the water. Thus, while the owner of the lower estate is still obligated to receive the waters from the higher estate, he may now make constructions that will impede the natural flow of water as long as there will be another way by which the water can flow downwards.

Applying the above cited provision to your situation, you may remind your neighbor that considering the obstruction he had caused in the natural flow of the water, he is mandated by law as the owner of the lower estate to provide for an alternative drainage for the flow of the water. Should he fail to comply with the requirements of the law, you may file a case against him for the violation of the Water Code of the Philippines.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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