International Water Ski Federation
Environmental Handbook for Towed Water Sports


The International Water Ski Federation (IWSF) and its member organizations recognize the importance of taking care of the environment -- our future, as individuals and as a sport, depends on it.  Water skiers have a vested interest in protecting the environment, as the ability to enjoy our sport, and good health, depends on clean, safe and non-polluted waterways.

Why this Handbook?

The IWSF recognizes that environmental management is an important component of responsible sports management.  It acknowledges that the sport of water skiing creates some environmental impacts that must be addressed.  As a result, one of the IWSF’s priorities for the new millennium is to embrace and implement environmentally responsible management practices.  The IWSF encourages its members, the water ski community, and the boating industry as a whole to do likewise.

It is the intention of this Handbook to inspire all members of the water ski community to implement a positive, practical and proactive approach to environmental management. 

OBJECTIVES of this Handbook:

 The objectives of this handbook are to:

 1.      Highlight the types of environmental impacts associated with boating and water skiing

 2.      Offer water skiers, boaters, and club/marina operators recommended best practices and wise boating tips to reduce or prevent these impacts.  

WHAT’S Inside:

The handbook is divided into the following four main parts:

Part A – Introduction – to the IWSF handbook and its objectives

Part B – Water Skiing, Boating and the Environment – Issues and Impacts

Part C – Practical Steps to Environmentally Responsible Water Skiing and Boating

Part D – Recommended Environmental Practices for Club/marina Operators

 This handbook is based on an extensive literature review on the impact of water skiing (and boating) on the environment.  Most of this handbook’s facts and findings are based on conclusions drawn from numerous papers, reports, books, and studies, which can be found in the bibliography.  The recommended best practices and practical steps were developed primarily by the IWSF, with contributions made by various individuals and respected water ski and boating organizations from around the world.  

The Sport of Water Skiing:

Water skiing is a sport with many social, economic and health benefits to society.  It is unique in that it is a sport where able and disabled persons, and people as young as 5 years and as old as 80 years of age can participate alongside each other.  It is a sport that involves more than one person, and is a wonderful family activity that gathers members together for a day of fun at a favorite waterway. 

Anyone who has put on water skis can attest to its health benefits – it is a sport that demands and develops strength, agility and endurance.  The sport includes several disciplines including slalom, tricks, cable, jump, ski racing, kneeboard, wakeboard, and barefoot, with each of these practiced for either recreational or competitive enjoyment.

Economically, water skiing can be credited with generating capital and employment opportunities worldwide from both direct economic activity and spin-off products and services.  The sport plays an important role in the economy, tourism, and culture of many countries around the globe.

 WATER SKIING Into the Future

 The sport of water skiing has already begun taking action towards reducing environmental impacts, as demonstrated by the creation of this Handbook and through numerous other activities. The most significant step forward for the sport has come from the technological advancements made by the marine industry. Almost all major marine engine manufacturers are today producing engines that emit significantly less hydrocarbons and less noise, with reductions in emissions in the order of up to 80% recorded by some two-stroke engine manufacturers. As well, there has been a shift away from the more polluting and less efficient older two-stroke engines towards both more efficient and less harmful four-stroke V-8 engines, and most recently toward cleaner more efficient two-stroke models.  This trend toward cleaner, quieter, more efficient engines is sure to continue as pollution abatement technology becomes more sophisticated for the marine engine and as pressure from pollution regulators grows. (More on marine engines can be found in Appendix B.)

However, despite the anticipated benefits from technological advancements, there still remains much that can be done by administrators, club/marina operators, event organizers and individual participants to prevent impacts from ever occurring. This Handbook provides numerous tips and suggested best practices to help move our sport towards pro-active environmental management for all. Not only will such practices benefit the natural ecology, they can also result in various other social and economic benefits such as cost savings and enhanced member pride.

Furthermore, a sound environmental approach will assist water ski regulatory authorities in any country to set strategies for the sport’s development based on the philosophy of "sustainable development": meeting the needs of the present in a way that does not limit the ability of future generations to meet their needs or harm the integrity of the natural environment.  By taking action today, the sport of water skiing will be in a strong position down the road if and when regulatory authorities pass judgement, and set laws, based on the sport’s record in environmental protection.  Furthermore, an environmental management approach to our sport will help ensure that boating and water skiing are safe activities for both participants and the public. And finally, by implementing sustainable development practices we will enhance the conditions under which indigenous species of flora and fauna will flourish in countries around the world.

The following are just some of the reasons why it is in the best interest of the water ski community to embrace sound environmental management practices.

 BENEFITS of Environmental Management:

Due Diligence – this is a fundamental requirement of any legal defense against an environmental prosecution.  This is especially pertinent for club/marina operators with regards to major spills of fuel and oil into the water or onto the ground.  Part of due diligence is the adoption of a regularly updated emergency response plan with which all staff are familiar.

Regulatory Requirements – Club/marina operators must be fully aware of all applicable environmental regulations and make sure that they are being met at all times.  In some jurisdictions the government’s environmental regulatory body has the authority to close down a club/marina if such regulations are not being upheld.

Reduce Operating Costs – There are many small ways a club/marina can reduce costs and improve operating efficiencies.  One of the simplest of these is waste reduction; an efficient waste reduction plan will ensure minimal waste arrives at the club/marina, which in turn results in reduced clean-up and waste haulage costs.

Fuel Savings – Modern two-stoke marine engines (models built after 1997) burn, and emit, significantly less fuel than their predecessors.  In fact, the new engines burn up to 40 percent less fuel than the traditional two-stroke engines.  This improved efficiency results in considerable fuel savings for boaters and benefits the environment by substantially reducing hydrocarbon emissions.

Public Relations – A clean, well-run marina will go a long way to improving public perception and the image of boating and water skiing in general.  It  also has the ability to improve the marketability of special events or competitions to potential sponsors.

Property Value – Property value relies largely on its salability.  Many banks and lending institutions require environmental site assessments to be undertaken before financing.  Sound environmental practices will help prevent spills of toxic substances or other types of environmental mishaps, which could reduce the value of the property.

Legacy – Taking steps today to protect the environment is the right thing to do for many reasons but especially because we owe it to the generations of tomorrow.  Not only do we have a responsibility to clean up past damage, but also to prevent further contamination and pollution.  This approach will help ensure that the sport of water skiing will exist for years and years to come.  It is not unrealistic to imagine watching our grandchildren water ski behind a boat that only leaves bubbles in its wake.

This handbook is one tool which the IWSF encourages its members to use both at the national and the club/marina levels to help bring the sport of water skiing to the highest standards of environmental performance.  This endeavor will not only benefit clubs/ marinas and water skiers locally, but it has the potential to bring about positive change for the global environment.

The IWSF hopes that you, as a member of the international water skiing community, will find this handbook useful in identifying ways in which to improve your environmental management practices.  By doing so, you and thousands of others at all levels will continue the sport’s movement toward increasingly sustainable practices. 

Back To Contents

Part B – Water Skiing, Boating and the Environment – Issues and Impacts

Part C – Practical Steps to Environmentally Responsible Water Skiing and Boating

Part D – Recommended Environmental Practices for Club/marina Operators