International Water Ski Federation
Environmental Handbook for Towed Water Sports


Environmentally responsible water skiing and boating implies respect and care for the natural environment, both on and off the water.  To become an environmentally responsible water skier and boater means first being aware of how your actions affect the environment, and second, taking steps to prevent such impacts.  

In most cases a simple change of old habits is the biggest step an individual needs to take to make a difference.  Here are a few examples:  

·         Purchase a biodegradable boat cleaner instead of one containing toxic compounds

·         Switch your engine lubricant to a biodegradable brand

·         Stay as far away from the shoreline as possible when water skiing  

For club/marina operators there are comprehensive environmental management strategies available, if desired.  One of these models is the internationally recognized ISO 14000 series of environmental management standards.  Other sources include your local environmental groups or environmental consultants who specialize in Environmental Management Systems (EMS).  


Water skiers and boaters play an important role in protecting the environment, both as members of their club/marina and as individual consumers. Simple steps can be taken now and in the future to safeguard the environment. 

This section provides a range of suggested steps and best practices for each of the following areas: 

·         Green Practices – Members/guests         ·  Fueling Practices

·         Boat Maintenance                                       ·  Dockside Practices

·         Wise Boating                                               ·  Waste Prevention

·         Consumer Power  


CODE of Practice: 

Your club/marina may already have in place Code(s) of Conduct which specify acceptable boating behavior as well as the responsibilities that go with being a member.   Some clubs/marinas may also have specific Codes of Conduct for noise control as well as a general Code of Practice to cover all other aspects. 

If your club/marina has such a Code in place you should be familiar with all its restrictions and guidelines including those pertaining to the environment.  If no such Code exists, or it does not address environmental issues, then the following pages provide recommended best practices that could be part of any club/marina’s Codes (for an overview of Codes of Practice see Appendix C). 

GREEN Practices To Live By – Member/Guests: 

The following are some of the more simple habits individuals can adopt: 

·         Conserve energy when and where possible:

·         Minimize all wastes or garbage brought into club/marina

·         Always try to Reduce, Re-Use and Recycle whenever possible (see Waste Management below)

·         Seek alternative, environmentally safe cleaning products

·         Minimize use of paper when possible i.e. use rags instead of paper towels, double side photocopies, canvas bags instead of paper bags etc. 

GETTING There:  

·         Carpool whenever possible for travel to the club/marina to conserve fuel and prevent air pollution

·         Ride a bicycle or take public transportation to get to the club/marina whenever possible

·         If you drive a vehicle do so with the environment in mind - make sure your car engine and tires are in proper working order, and avoid excessive trips to and from the club/marina 


A simple spill at a re-fueling station in itself is not a serious threat to the environment.  But when added to hundreds of other spills occurring over a season the effects can be detrimental to some marine and land ecosystems.  By adopting some simple and safe practices this unnecessary impact can be prevented. 

GENERAL Fueling Tips:

BEFORE Starting to Refuel a Boat:  

WHILE Refueling:

AFTER Refueling:

FILLING Portable Fuel Tanks

FUELING PWCs and Small Outboard Motors with Built-in Tanks:  


Boat maintenance can cover a range of activities including washing, painting and mechanical repairs.  These activities often require the use of chemicals, cleaners or petroleum based products which can end up released into the environment. 

Whoever undertakes the work assumes the responsibility to do the job in an environmentally responsible manner.  When they do not it is the environment and the club/marina that suffers in the long run.  

The following practices should be made known to everyone who is working on a boat on club/marina property.  All boaters, skiers and club/marina staff should not only be familiar with these clean practices but make them part of his/her wise boating habits: 

Hull and engine maintenance activities most often include: 

·         Woodworking                             ·     Fiberglass repair

·         Metal working                             ·     Washing and polishing

·         Surface preparation                   ·     Painting and coating

·         Engine work                                ·     Work on mechanical and hydraulic systems 

The type of impacts associated with these activities include the release of: 

HULL Maintenance Practices:  

The following practices should be posted in an easy to read site in your club/marina’s boat work area: 

MECHANICAL Maintenance Practices:  

BEFORE Starting:  

Make sure suitable containment is in place including absorbent material and separate containers for all fluids, rags etc. 

IF Afloat – isolate the bilge pump from the automatic switch.  
Ensure that absorbent materials are in place around the work area when working on hydraulic equipment on deck. 

WHEN Working:

Clean all spills immediately and follow all applicable protocols for spills.
Do not wash away spills and do not mix wastes. Use a wash tank for cleaning parts.

AFTER Completion:

Check for leaks
Clean work area thoroughly and deposit wastes in designated containers

END of Season  

CLEANING, Polishing, and Painting Your Boat:     

There are many ways to clean a boat without harming the environment.  One of the best tools at hand is ‘elbow-grease’ instead of harsh detergents and cleaners.  Another is to make sure to purchase products that are environmentally benign and non-toxic whenever possible (see Appendix E for alternative products).

Here are some suggested best practices for cleaning, polishing and painting: 

CLEAN Green Reminders:  

BEFORE launch, the boat should be given a thorough cleaning, in an area where run-off will not go into the waterway.  

Next, a good coat of BOAT WAX should be applied and polished on as this will help prevent surface dirt from becoming engrained in the hull.  Re-waxing periodically will keep the boat in excellent condition. 

Finally, when STORING the boat, give it a thorough cleaning and add a final coat of wax for the season.  This will protect the hull and help avoid the use of harsh chemicals come the next boating season.  When covering the boat, use an all-weather tarp.  They last longer and are less damaging to the environment than shrink-wrap. 


Hard antifouling paints are more environmentally safe than the ablative and the non-ablative (sloughing) brands. However, all commercial anti-fouling paints are made using heavy metals (tin and copper) which are toxic to certain species above natural levels. 

Anti-fouling Practices:


Boating smart is not only safe but it also helps the environment and all those living near the body of water.  Operating a boat wisely can lead to fuel savings and in turn less air and water pollution, and it can reduce noise levels which benefits cottagers, birds and wildlife. 

ECO-FRIENDLY Tips to Boat By: 


Waste management applies to almost all activities associated with boating as most, if not all, generate waste to some degree.  It is up to each and every boater and water skier to do their part to keep water skiing a clean and respected sport activity. 

What is Waste? 

Waste consists of any unwanted products and materials, either hazardous or non-hazardous, and can be defined as: 

By-products resulting from processing, manufacturing and/or consumptive activities which cannot, for whatever reason at the time, be recycled or reused and must be landfilled, incinerated or otherwise disposed.  

There are basically three classes of wastes; solid, liquid and gas.  Each of these can be further categorized as either non-hazardous or hazardous.  Non-hazardous solid wastes typically make up the majority of the waste stream and are often the easiest to prevent or reduce. 

Why Prevent Waste? 

Taking steps to reduce waste means:

The 4Rs:

The best approach to live by to prevent all types of wastes is the "4Rs":  

Rethink             Reduce                 Reuse                 Recycle  

The first R, Rethink, is all about doing things in a new way.  It is a reminder to always think of new ways to reduce waste, to seek new, less harmful methods or products, and to continually ask ourselves how to prevent waste from being created in the first place.

The best way to avoid waste is to Reduce it right at the source.  Here are 9 simple rules to reduce:  

1.      Purchase supplies in bulk

2.      Purchase materials in re-usable containers

3.      Encourage retailers to use minimal packaging

4.      Minimize your packaging needs when planning your day on the water

5.      Use reusable containers wherever possible

6.      Adopt “clean” working practices at all times

7.      Avoid buying or using anything described as being “disposable”

8.      Use products described as “long-life” (i.e. solar powered)  whenever possible

9.      Seek out alternative, environmentally friendly products where possible 

Reuse When Possible 

Products and materials can often have several uses and should be Reused as often as possible.  This approach requires one to think of alternatives for an item such as converting old clothing into boat rags, using old food or product containers for storage bins, composting food wastes for garden fertilizer. 

Recycle When Possible 

Find out what types of waste materials (such as plastics or newsprint) are recycled at your club/marina.  
Use reusable containers to sort the waste on your boat.
Avoid contaminating the club/marina’s recycling containers by carefully placing your recyclable items in the correct container.

TIPS to Waste-Free Boating: 

  Text Box: 	Green Rule # 6
	Always know what products are hazardous and handle them with extreme caution at all times.


All persons who use a club/marina should be aware that some materials are considered  dangerous and/or hazardous.  Such materials must be handled very carefully, kept segregated from other waste, and disposed of according to strict protocols usually dictated by the appropriate government or state regulations. 

WHAT Qualifies as Hazardous Waste? 

A hazardous waste is usually labeled as hazardous in print on the package and by universally recognized symbols, such as a skull with an ‘X’ or a caution sign.  Hazardous wastes are often poisonous and can cause serious or fatal reactions if ingested.  

Other ways to determine if a material is hazardous include:  

WISE Handling Practices for Hazardous Materials:


As a consumer you have the power to influence and set trends by the choices you make at the cash register.  Collectively, consumers wield an even greater influence over governments and in turn manufacturers.   

The recent introduction of hydrocarbon emission regulations by the United States Environmental Protection Agency acts as proof in point (see Appendix B for details).   After years of lobbying by the public and environmental groups demanding better air quality,  the US government took action to address the pollution issues with off-road vehicles, including recreational marine engines. 

These 1998 regulations have forced manufacturers to produce more efficient marine engines (as high as 40 percent less fuel consumed), reduce hydrocarbon emissions (by as much as 90 percent), and operate with less noise. 

As American manufacturers account for over 50% of all marine engines sold worldwide, significant global reductions in hydrocarbon levels can be expected. 


Today, marine engine manufacturers recognize that consumers and regulators demand cleaner and quieter engines.  As a result older two-stroke engines are being gradually phased out and a much wider range of four-stroke engines being phased in.  More recently, state-of-the-art cleaner direct fuel-injected (DFI) two-stroke technology has reached the marketplace in a number of models of larger engines. Not surprisingly, more consumers are choosing cleaner four-stroke engines and moving toward the newer DFI two-strokes, and an increasing number of authorities in different parts of the world are banning the older models of two-stroke engine.  

There is also an increase in the use of the much cleaner burning propane gas fuel, particularly in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe, and the use of synthetic lubricants that require a lower mixing ratio. 

The combined effect of these trends will mean significant reductions in hydrocarbon emissions worldwide.  They also demonstrate that marine engine manufacturers are taking steps to significantly reduce emissions, and ultimately enhance the public image of water skiing and boating. 

WHAT Can I Do?  

Today, most major engine manufacturers are already producing engines that meet or exceed the EPA emission standards.  Therefore, when purchasing a new engine, make sure you choose one that meets, or preferably exceeds, the USEPA standards.  Be a wise consumer and always compare manufacturers' pollution control features -- there may be significant variances in quality or grades of efficiency. 

Older engines, on the other hand, can produce less emissions through a retrofit with modern pollution control devices.  To significantly reduce emission levels it is essential for owners of older marine engines to service their engines regularly, use cleaner burning reformulated fuels and bio-degradable lubricants, and use the correct gasoline-to-oil ratios. 

Whether you have an old, retrofitted marine engine or a brand new one you will not only incur significant fuel savings, but you will be playing an important part in pollution prevention. 

ECO-WISE Consumer Tips: 

1.       Do Your Homework:

When shopping for a new engine ask plenty of questions.  Now that the move towards cleaner and quieter engines is underway, innovations will continue to be made to pollution and noise control features.  Some of the best sources of information on what is new in engines include: 

2.      Use leaner fuel mixtures to reduce inefficient burning. This can be done on existing engines without totally redesigning the engine. 

3.   Use simple direct fuel injection on existing engines.  This modification simply means that the fuel is injected into the cylinder after closure of the exhaust port, thereby almost eliminating unburned fuel emissions. 

4.      Purchase the most advanced two-stroke design such as the direct fuel injection systems. 

5.      Upgrade the advanced two-stroke design engine with a catalytic converter once this technology is readily available to consumers. 

6.      Install noise reduction devices, such as mufflers and engine box insulation, wherever possible on old engines.  Make sure the operating level falls within your club/marina’s Code of Practice for Noise.

Finally, remember to always live by the 4Rs—Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.  Support your club/marina in the implementation of its Codes of Conduct at all times.  By taking small steps and actions we can all make big differences for the betterment of the environment and the sport of water skiing.


Introduction  - Part A

Water Skiing, Boating and the Environment - Part B


Recommended Best Practices for Club/Marina Operators - Part D