International Water Ski Federation
Environmental Handbook for Towed Water Sports


If you are a club/marina operator and are looking for practical advice on environmental management strategies, this section will help you get started.  

The term ‘environmental management’ is used broadly to describe the process of managing an activity or program that ultimately has one or more benefits for the natural environment.  This can be as simple as providing a spill prevention course for club/marina staff to implementing a comprehensive top to bottom Environmental Management System (discussed below). 

Regardless of the extent of the program, the important fact is that steps are being taken today to minimize the environmental impacts of tomorrow. 


Environmental Management System (EMS): 

If a comprehensive, top to bottom management approach is what your club/marina  requires, then an Environmental Management System (EMS) is an excellent tool to help you achieve a high level of environmental performance. 

Today, organizations of all types and sizes are implementing EMSs.  There are several options as to how to implement an EMS. They range from hiring a consultant, to doing it on your own, to being part of a government or university case study program.  There are also journals, publications, and public information on EMS from environmental groups and government agencies.  The challenge for you, the operator, is in the practical implementation of an EMS.  

An EMS guides the user through a series of logical, interconnected steps based on well thought-out goals and objectives intended to address one or more environmental issues.  While there are minor variations in different EMS models, they are all very similar in the main components and overall objectives. 

The following is an outline of the main components of an EMS model: 

·         Management Support – ensure that all key decision-makers endorse the program?

·         Statement of the Issue – develop clear definition of the issue and its impact(s)

·         Program Leader – point person who drives program and oversees its progress

·         Regulations -- list all that apply to issue and incorporate into strategy

·         Goals and Performance Targets – establish realistic goals and performance targets for each issue

·         Implementation Strategy – develop strategies to meet performance targets within a time frame?

·         Performance Measures – establish benchmarks by which to measure progress

·         Resource Needs – determine resource requirements within a realistic time frame

·         Observe and Record – monitor progress and maintain accurate records

·         Educate and Communicate – inform and educate staff, members, other stakeholders  about issues, strategies, and how they can contribute to the program

·         Review and Improve -- establish regular review periods and make changes as needed

·         Fund Raising and Promotion – develop strategies to fund and/or promote the program if necessary.  


Preparatory work is important as it helps prevent misunderstandings and setbacks, and lays a foundation for long-term program success.   It can also have other additional benefits such as cost savings, overall improved operating efficiencies, improved public image for club/marina, and enhanced member pride. 

The following headings cover the main areas of operation for club/marina operators, and include suggested best practices for preventing or minimizing environmental impacts. 


One of a club/marina’s best security blankets is its Codes of Practice.  Codes provide members and the public a clear understanding of the club/marina’s guidelines, restrictions, and rules of membership for safe, responsible boating. 

WHY Have Codes Of Practice? 

Codes of Practice are invaluable tools as they: 

·         Set the boundaries of acceptable behaviour both on and off  the water

·         Demonstrate the marina’s commitment to the environment

·         Help reduce the marina’s liability and risk

·         Demonstrate the marina’s commitment to safety both on and off the water

·         Demonstrate to the local community that the marina upholds principles of sound management and respect for the environment

·         Demonstrate sensitivity and respect for neighbours and other waterway users

·         Demonstrate a level of professionalism and due diligence many potential sponsors value 

All Codes of Practice should be posted in the clubhouse and dock areas, and communicated regularly through the appropriate club/marina publications.  As part of a Code, some clubs/marinas have developed policy statements and agreements for members to sign that demonstrate a commitment to clean and safe boating practices.   A sample of such a policy and agreement can be found in Appendix E

For a sample outline of a Code of Practice, produced by Britain’s Sports Council, and a Code of Conduct for Noise, produced by the British Water Ski Federation, refer to Appendix C.


To reduce and eliminate risk and liability a club/marina must be fully aware of all environmental legislation and regulations related in any way to its activities, services and products.  This also includes proposed or draft legislation. 

Not only does this awareness help the marina address environmental liability issues, but it also provides lenders, employees, and other stakeholders evidence of sound environmental performance.  Management is advised to check with local authorities and government agencies on a regular basis to make sure that they are current on proposed legislation. 

All regulations and by-laws which affect boaters, water skiers, and members should be posted, printed in marina literature, included in member contracts, and updated regularly.   

3.       ECOLOGICAL ISSUES – Addressing the Impacts: 

Operators should at a minimum be aware of the types of ecological impacts associated with the club/marina’s land and water-based activities.   With some issues, and in certain bodies of water, these impacts may be well known and documented, while with others there may be no awareness or history of reporting.  

It is to your advantage to be as knowledgeable as possible about the impacts – not only will it demonstrate a level of responsibility but you will also be prepared to respond publicly if the issue were to become controversial.   It also provides you with a strong base of knowledge when the time comes to choose a strategy to minimize or prevent the impact.  

It is helpful to put together a list of the most commonly known impacts and start a file on each.  This is a great opportunity to seek input from other "stakeholders"/interested parties, such as members, the local cottage association, or conservation group, and invite them to be part of an environmental team.   

If more information is required on an impact, the following sources may be helpful:           

·         Government bodies responsible for environment and land use –all recent  biological and environmental reports undertaken on area

·         Local library

·         Local and/or national environmental groups

·         Local and/or national conservation groups

·         Local and/or national interest groups

·         Private developers that have worked near shoreline or in general vicinity

·         Universities or Colleges – potential source for biological or environmental studies 

Maintaining files on each impact is beneficial because they: 

·         Provide management with a recorded history of the issues

·         Reduce the marina’s environmental risk through sound record keeping

·         Involve stakeholders, and potential funding partners, in pursuit of common environmental goals

·         Influence the type of remedial steps taken

·         Can be used as educational material for teaching young and old boaters and skiers 

If you are not sure where to begin, you may want to consider one or more of the following: 

·         Hire an environmental consultant to perform study and develop recommendations

·         Undertake work on your own with professional input where necessary

·         Seek assistance from affiliated organizations, such as your national water ski federation, the IWSF,  or other boat or ski groups

·         Partner with academic institutions to undertake study (i.e. a graduate degree project)

·         Approach local government for funding or to undertake study 

If your time and resources are limited, a volunteer committee could be struck to manage the program.  If well organized, a volunteer program is not only cost effective but it provides people opportunities to get involved.  However, as with staff, a volunteer driven program still requires guidance, direction, review and recognition on a regular basis. 


Dock and yard management is an important issue for a club/marina as they are two of its most visible assets.  They are also the busiest, and potentially the most hazardous areas of the club/marina.  Sound dock and yard management is not only important for environmental and safety reasons, but also for attracting new business. 

Typically, the dock area provides the following services to the club/marina: 

·         Fuel dock

·         Pump-out facility

·         Launching and Storage

·         Grounds Maintenance

·         Water body usage i.e. water skiing

Each of these services has the ability to affect the environment and therefore they are addressed individually.

FUEL Dock: 

One of the most common and severe risks that occur in the dock area is the spill of hydrocarbons (oil, gasoline, and diesel) in the water, on land, and in the atmosphere (see Appendix A for details of impacts). Another risk in the fuel dock area is fire - a potentially devastating threat intensified by poor fueling techniques. 

The following are recommended best practices for dock management: 

SAFE Practices for Dock Managers: 

·         List proper re-fuelling practices including safety issues

·         Comply with the requirements of relevant fuel handling codes and regulations

·         Provide clear instructions for reporting spills

·         Indicate location of absorbent materials and instructions for their use

·         Make sure instructions are readily visible to boaters

GENERAL Rules for Pump-Out Facilities  

The following are some basic rules for the management of pump-out facilities: 

·         The pump-out facility shall be available and in good operating condition at all times.  If it is not, customers should be asked to inform management immediately

·         Customers should be informed of what practices are and are not permitted

·         Ensure that the tank is pumped out regularly – don’t wait until the tank is full before calling a licensed sewage haulage contractor

·         If a pump-out facility is not on site, management must indicate the nearest location

·         Suction and washout hoses should be clearly marked and their storage position clearly labeled.  Coil and hang the wash-water hose beside a sign which states that the water from that hose is NOT A DRINKING WATER SUPPLY

·         Location of onshore toilet facilities should be clearly indicated

·         Check the pipes from the dock pump-out station regularly for damage and leaks 

LAUNCHING and Storage: 

Some of the impacts associated with launching and retrieving boats include the release of hydrocarbons (gas, oil, and diesel) and heavy metals into the water, atmosphere and on the ground.  Also, the transfer of unwanted marine organisms, or biological contaminants, can be prevented before boats are put onto the trailers.  

The following are some best practice tips for safe launching and retrieving: 

·         Keep fuel, oil, grease and heavy metals out of the water

·         Help members reduce their launching time whenever possible.  Explain that oil, grease and other contaminants may drip from the hull into the water

·         Remove boats from the ramp as quickly as possible to minimize oil and grease spills

·         Avoid leaving the travel hoist parked over the haul-out dock when not in use to minimize the chance of hydraulic oil and grease dripping into the water.  The hoist must be well maintained to prevent leaks.

·         Boats should be removed from the haul-out slip area to a designated wash area before hulls are power washed.  Only light hosing or hand washing should be done in the ramp and haul-out areas

·         Encourage members to keep trailers well maintained and free of excessive oil and grease

·         Encourage members to use vegetable-based greases for trailer wheel bearings 

Similarly, storage of boats and liquids can also lead to release of hydrocarbons and heavy metals due to leaks.  And, the storing of boats can be done without the creation of unnecessary solid wastes.

The following are some best practice tips for boat storage: 

·         Ensure stern drive units and outboard engines are not leaking

·         Place drip trays under grease-filled stern tubes

·         Place drip trays under stern drives and outboards

·         Add inhibitors to the gas tank before long term storage to stabilize the fuel

·         Ensure that fuel tank suction line valves are closed where appropriate

·         Encourage boat owners to use tarpaulins or invest in a canvas boat cover that can be reused over and over

·         If possible, restrict the use of shrink-wrap in the absence of a recycling contract with the supplier as part of the standard service

·         If shrink-wrap is being used, be sure to tape over all fuel vents before igniting heat gun

For the storage of liquids make sure to: 

·         Check the condition of fuel lines to the gas dock

·         Check the condition of above ground tanks and secondary containment walls for damage and/or corrosion

·         Check that the drain valves to the secondary containment are kept closed

·         Verify that the fuel pumped at the gas dock corresponds to changes in tank levels. This should be done on a daily basis during the season and once a month out of season.  When dipping, look for water in the tank as well as checking the fuel level

·         Always have someone standing by when fuel tanks are being refilled 


The grounds of a club/marina include everything from roads, parking, and outdoor storage to drainage, grass, buildings and utilities. 

The following are some suggested best practices for grounds maintenance:

·         Allow the grounds to grow as naturally as possible and explain this to the members

·         Avoid or at least minimize the use of toxic herbicides and pesticides for weed and insect control – use biological means of control whenever possible

·         Do not cut grass more often than necessary and leave all grass at least 5cm long

·         Cut grass only where necessary for recreational purposes

·         Do not water more often than absolutely necessary

·         Maintain a natural buffer area wherever possible between marina and the shoreline.  This will help to restrict storm-water runoff and will improve visual impact of club/marina

·         Keep storm-water gullies clear of debris and grass well groomed

·         Encourage members to enjoy the wildlife that will be attracted

·         Ask members to avoid throwing food and fish scraps that may attract unwanted wildlife pests.  Also, discarded fish parts can lead to a reduction in the oxygen content of the water and foul smells

·         Provide members a fish cleaning station with a closed lid container for fish scraps.

·         Ensure that fish cleaning station has running water and filtered drain that leads into sewer drain—do not allow fishy water to drain into water body

·         Provide members with baggies for cleaning up after pets and encourage them to take pets far from recreational and work areas

·         Collect and properly dispose of garbage regularly

·         Maintain granular surfaces to maximize storm water absorption and minimize runoff

·         Use only vegetable-based liquids (such as black liquor from the pulp and paper industry) or calcium for dust suppression.

·         Use only environmentally acceptable cleaners and disinfectants for buildings and washrooms – avoid flushing any chemicals as they may be toxic to the bacteria that keep a septic system functional.

·         Avoid using any air conditioning units that produce chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

·         Do not let refrigerant gases be released during maintenance of air conditioning units

·         Maintain all machinery in good working condition and repair all leaks immediately

·         Provide drip trays or other containment wherever leaks occur in machinery

·         Use vegetable-based greases where possible 


We all have a responsibility to keep the water body in as natural, and clean a state as possible.  While the majority of the evidence finds that boating and water skiing has a minimal impact on aquatic ecosystems, there are also studies that find that boating activity can have a significant impact on certain aquatic environments. 

The following are suggested best practice tips to prevent damage to the water body: 

·         Do not allow members to operate boats, or water ski at high speeds in shallow waters (a minimum level in some areas is 1.5 metres) – not only does it cause turbidity and destroy fish habitats, but it is very dangerous where there are swimmers in the water

·         Put in place no-pass zones to prevent shoreline erosion from wash especially if shorelines do not have natural or artificial reinforcement or protection barriers.  It can also damage boats moored on outer docks of some club/marinas

·         Put in place controls to prevent excessive noise (as in Code of Conduct for Noise)

·         Inform customers that they are responsible for their own waste management and request that they use the club/marina facilities and containers for appropriate wastes

·         Introduce a Safety Education Program for water skiers and boaters


Create an Awards Program to recognize members for excellence in boat and ski safety and environmental responsibility.

To control aquatic plant growth around dock and the shoreline certain precautions can be taken including: 

·         Obtain appropriate permits for weed removal from government, if necessary.

·         Keep plant removal to a minimum—in some areas the removal of a small amount can have a detrimental effect on a marine environment

·         Be aware of periods when fish spawn in order to protect spawning habitats

·         Avoid use of herbicides and pesticides – some jurisdictions ban such chemicals

·         Use mechanical methods, such as boat-mounted cutters, to cut back excess plant growth where possible and practical.  The plant debris should then be collected and composted at a suitable composting site away from recreational areas.

·         Dredging should be avoided as much as possible – it destroys habitats and breeding areas for fish, amphibians and other organisms.  It can also disturb harmful contaminants that may have settled in the sediments and affect water quality

·         All dredged material must be disposed of on land and suitably contained to prevent it from washing back into the water 


Implementing a waste prevention program is usually simple and, if done correctly, cost effective.  The 4R philosophy should be promoted and members encouraged to reduce wastes in every way possible. 

A waste prevention program can provide the following benefits:           

·         Reduction in use of raw materials

·         Cost savings from reduced waste disposal fees

·         Conservation of valuable resources

·         Reduced pollution and enhanced visual impact

·         Improved public image and employee pride

·         Compliance with regulations and reduced liability

The Waste Audit 

One of the best steps to take before implementing a waste management program is to conduct a waste audit at your club/marina.  This is a simple procedure that will tell you what categories of waste are being generated and in what volumes.  The findings become the benchmarks upon which realistic waste reduction targets can be set and measured against. 

For an outline of a waste audit please refer to Appendix D. 

WASTE Collection -- Non- Hazardous: 

Once management has determined what the waste categories will be, separate containers for garbage, recyclable materials, and reusable items should be set up side by side, at convenient locations around the marina. 

Members and other club users should be encouraged to participate in the recycling program.  This requires plenty of easy to read informative signs and containers placed in convenient locations.  This program also demands that the containers be emptied on a regular and/or as needed basis. 

WASTE Management Practices for Operators: 

·         Ensure that containers have lids that are in place

·         Ensure that containers for recyclables are clearly labeled

·         Ensure that containers are emptied into the dumpster regularly

·         Keep collection areas neat and tidy

·         Ensure that lids on dumpsters are kept closed

·         Ensure that dumpsters drains are kept closed

·         Call the waste hauler for pick-up before the container is completely full

·         Always set a good example by picking up waste and keeping the marina premises tidy. 

MEMBERS and Customers: 

·         Members should be discouraged from taking packaging and other waste onboard.

·         Members should be offered onboard containers for their recyclables

·         Do not allow members to pour waste liquids into any solid waste containers

·         Do not allow members to put waste directly into the dumpster.  Management should know and control what goes into the dumpster.

·         Management can offer a service to collect all liquid wastes from the boats.  This will prevent contamination of valuable recyclables and of dumpster 

WHAT Qualifies as Hazardous Waste? 

A hazardous waste can be either liquid or solid and is usually labeled as hazardous in print, by universally recognized symbols.  The other ways to properly identify a hazardous waste include: 

·         Examine the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) supplied with the material.  MSDS describe the physical and chemical nature of the substance and the methods for proper handling, storage and disposal.

·         Contact the manufacturer of the product

·         Contact the local government office responsible for the environment and waste management

·         Obtain a copy of a registration guidance manual for generators of liquid industrial waste and hazardous waste usually available from government offices.

SAFE Hazardous Waste Handling Practices: 

·         Register as a generator of hazardous waste (depending on local government regulations)

·         Ensure that the hazardous wastes are collected regularly by a registered hauler

·         Ensure that each shipment is properly manifested.

WISE Storage Practices for Hazardous Materials: 

·         Place materials that are contaminated with a hazardous substance in tightly closed containers of a compatible material (refer to MSDS for guidance)

·         Keep hazardous chemicals separated according to their classes

·         Keep hazardous wastes in separate containers that are clearly labeled with their contents prior to being disposed of in a proper manner

·         Minimize the amount of materials stored on site

·         Ensure that the storage location for hazardous materials is out of high traffic areas and can be secured from public at all times

The contracted waste hauler should be asked to assist in the preparation of both the waste generator registration report and the manifests.  This co-operation will be of benefit to both parties in ensuring that the documentation correctly identifies the waste to be transported. 

WASTE Collection – Hazardous Waste: 

All persons who use a marina should be aware that some materials are considered to be hazardous wastes and are regulated accordingly.  Such materials must be segregated and collected separately.  

Management would also be wise to check periodically with local environmental organizations for suggestions on alternative products, and where applicable, with government departments that have a labeling program for environmentally approved products or services.  


One of the best ways to determine if a club/marina could be more energy efficient is to undertake an energy audit.  The audit should be carried out by someone with an understanding of the various energy systems of the club/marina, or by an energy consultant.  In many countries there are private companies who will undertake an audit, retrofit a facility, and arrange for financing based on the savings accrued over time from the retrofit. 

To find such an energy consultant check with your local government agency, hydroelectric commission, or energy association.  A search of the internet may also prove worthwhile. 

ENERGY Efficiency Practices: 

Management should have a good understanding of what operations consume energy,  how much energy is used, and at what times during a 24-hour period.  An energy audit is the best way to reveal this, while simple things, like monthly hydroelectric bills, can help pinpoint general energy  consumption practices. 

The following are some energy saving tips for a club/marina and its facilities: 

DOCK Area: 

·         Provide a metered electrical supply to individual docks to encourage energy savings

·         Provide customers with magnetic identity cards to use the toilet facilities where possible

·         Turn off unnecessary lights--operate area lighting on automatic timers or motion sensors       


·         Turn off unnecessary lights--operate area lighting on automatic timers or motion sensors      

·         Use only enough wattage per bulb as necessary

·         Turn off all computers and other office machines when not in use

·         Use high quality, energy efficient lighting throughout offices – compact fluorescent bulbs use 70% to 80% less energy than regular light bulbs

·         Plant deciduous shade trees near windows to reduce demand for air conditioning in summer, and heat in the winter months by allowing sun through windows

·         Attach awnings outside and curtains (or blinds) inside to reduce demand for air conditioning and heat in summer and winter months

·         Use fans instead of air conditioning if possible – fans use less energy and do not contain the ozone depleting coolants that many air conditioners require (like chlorofluorocarbons)

YARDS and Grounds: 

·         Where possible, use hand operated equipment over power tools or vehicles

·         Let grass areas grow longer and cut less frequently to reduce use of electric mowers 


EDUCATION and Communication Programs: 

Effective education and communication strategies can be critical to the success of an environmental program.  They inform members and in turn encourage them to participate.  They can also ensure a minimum level of compliance by all, and make the enforcement of Codes of Conduct by management and staff much easier.   

Water skiers and boaters need to know what the environmental issues are, and how their activities contribute to the impacts.  And importantly, they need to be informed in a constructive way as to what steps they can take to prevent further impacts. 

A Communications Committee made up of volunteer members is one way to develop a communications strategy.  This committee would be responsible for making sure that the correct messages are getting out and in a timely manner. 

Some of the information vehicles at their disposal may include: 

·         Provide regular updates to members through club/marina newsletter

·         Ensure a staff member is on the Committee to ensure all staff are informed

·         Create an environmental section on club/marina notice board

·         Use posters and flyers

·         Make announcements over public service system

·         Place inserts into regular club/marina mail outs

·         Use member internet e-mailings and a club/marina web site

·         Annual reports 

The Communications Committee can oversee a staff awareness program and make sure that required protocols, like Emergency Spill Plans, First Aid, or Hazardous Waste Management Procedures are updated, well communicated, and visible to all affected. 

Management and its Committee members may also want an external communication plan to inform sponsors, the boating/water ski public, and other stakeholders about the environmental programs.   A separate mailing may be the way to communicate with some of these audiences, or any of the above listed vehicles could also be used. 

MONITOR and Review: 

In order to assess a club/marina’s environmental performance, regular record keeping should be maintained.  This will provide results, allow managers to spot weak areas, and provide the benchmark for setting new goals.

Furthermore, a regular review period of all environmental programs is wise as it will help club/marina operators measure performance, control spending, and ensure that performance targets are being met.  

RECOGNITION and Awards: 

Last, but certainly not least, is a reminder to recognize all those who contribute to the environmental management program.  Some organizations create awards to recognize staff and volunteers who made a valuable contribution to an environmental goal. Some possible awards include: 

Best Boat Driver

Lowest Marine Engine Emission

Quietest Marine Engine

Green Volunteer Award

An environmental management program is an excellent way for a club/marina to introduce a range of stakeholders to the world of water skiing and boating and strengthen bonds within the community.  Their assistance can sometimes make an environmental program truly successful.  Expressing gratitude to these persons is not only the right thing to do, but good public relations for the club/marina and the sport of water skiing.  


Introduction - Part A

Waterskiing, Boating and the Environment - Part B

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

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