Water skiing has acquired over the years the reputation of a noisy and potentially dangerous sport that interferes with the quiet and safe enjoyment of a body of water. However, recent changes to the sport of water skiing will help

improve this view. The notable changes include the introduction of

regulations for fuel emission, engine modifications, and the gradual adoption of strategic management plans by management of water ski clubs and facilities.

Considerable work has been undertaken in recent years, primarily in Europe

and the United States, to dispel what many water ski supporters believe are

myths about their sport. Much of the work has focused on noise pollution,

with more recent research addressing other impacts such as shoreline

erosion and disturbance to waterfowl.

A common conclusion in many of the reports reviewed for this project was

that in general, and relative to other recreational boating activities,

water skiing has little overall damaging impact on the environment (EPA/BMI

'75; EEC; Sports Council '93; AWSA Resources 1 to 6; BMIF '94)

While such a generalization is encouraging, it can be misleading for

several reasons. First, impacts from water skiing must be evaluated

independently and not minimized by being measured against other

recreational boating activities. Second, the lack of research on specific

impacts, such as fuel emissions and disturbance to wildlife, makes such

generalizations premature and incomplete. Finally, the studies that found

direct environmental impacts due to water skiing at a given body of water,

should be viewed as significant. These findings may have important

implications with respect to the global environmental impact of water

skiing (Broads '97,'98; TNO '91; Posthill Pit '97; AWSA #1 &3 etc.)

While no new ecological impacts were uncovered associated with water

skiing, new issues have surfaced to positively change how the sport will

impact the environment in the years ahead. In particular, recently

introduced regulations by certain governments, and engine and boat

modifications by manufacturers. Both will help to significantly reduce

hydrocarbon emissions of gas powered motor boats.

The sport of water skiing is unique in that it has historically been an

'invisible' polluter – criticisms were typically about what could be heard

and seen and not about the millions of litres of fuel being dispersed into

the air and water. For several reasons this view of water skiing is

changing and all parties, manufacturers, governments, the public and water

ski organizations, are just today taking action to study impacts and

develop strategies to address them.

With both regulatory bodies and engine manufacturers taking steps to

control impacts, the timing for an IWSF environmental handbook is



Sources of information for this report included:

Literature review – most materials supplied through IWSF

Primary literature research – internet, libraries, books, magazines

Phone and internet interviews

Primary research -- boat and engine manufacturers questionnaire

The literature for this report came from several sources including the IWSF

and its member associations and federations, engine and boat manufacturers,

environmental and citizen groups, industry magazines, interest groups,

sport bodies, newspapers and various journals, legal documents, and

government proceedings.

Our research approach was to draw out general conclusions from all the

literature where possible. This proved difficult at times as my task did

not entail examination of the literature's authenticity. Therefore, each

report and study was viewed as legitimate and was not questioned for bias

or validity.

Furthermore, the reports/studies which discussed a specific body of water

addressed the unique characteristics of that body of water. This

uniqueness, while significant, makes certain theoretical conclusions and

generalizations about water skiing tentative. However, few studies

reviewed had problems or circumstances entirely unique to their particular


Reports and studies were from a limited number of countries including the

United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, Belgium, France, the

Netherlands and South Africa. The majority of these were authored by

organizations with a vested interest in water skiing, and the majority of

the most current and comprehensive research reports originated from the UK

followed by the United States.


The issues studied for this report include noise pollution, fuel and oil

emissions, disturbance of waterfowl and wildlife, effect on geomorphology

(wash and bank erosion), and impact on aquatic biota (pollution and


In assessing the overall significance of the above issues we found that two,

fuel and oil emissions, and noise pollution, ranked above the rest for two

reasons. Emissions from fuel and oil have by far the greatest potential

for environmental harm both locally and globally due to the damaging

effects of hydrocarbons to water, and particularly the atmosphere. An

abundance of scientific evidence exists to prove how damaging hydrocarbons

are to the ozone layer, animal health, and human health problems like

asthma and cancer. The second reason is that water skiing is widely

criticized for noise, and it is also one of the most frequently reported

issues in the literature.

For each of the following issues we attempted to provide references which

represent similar findings from other reports and studies on the subject.


1. Noise:

Historically noise has been the most emotive, and subjective issue plaguing

motor boating. The British Water Ski Federation defines noise as including

the engine, which is a combination of exhaust muffled by water cooled

manifolds and mechanical vibration which is muffled by flexible engine

mountings and sound absorbent cowlings. It is also a combination of the

movement of the boat through the water, 'wave slap' action, and the water

skier and people in the boat.

Water skiing has been labeled as one of the noisiest of recreational water

activities largely because of its irregular noise emissions from quick

accelerations, turns, and circles. Studies have been undertaken which

indicate that people find such irregular noise to be more disturbing than a

constant noise. However, recent noise tests prove that typical water

skiing activity does not produce sound above acceptable levels or higher

than other recreational boating activities (this is the case particularly

with engines built after 1972, and when water skiing is conducted in a

normal and respectful manner).

The most comprehensive work on noise research comes from the UK and the

U.S. Some of the UK's research includes the Code of Practice for Water

Skiing & Noise (BWSF,1997), The Code of Practice for Water Skiing in Noise

Sensitive Areas (BWSF, 1989), 'Water skiing and the Environment--A

Literature Review' (The Sports Council,1993), and Assessment of Water

Skiing on the Broads (Water Ski Working Group,1997)

Every year the American Water Ski Association (AWSA) conducts a series of

tests on powerboats submitted by their manufacturers for AWSA eligible

status. The tests are conducted in accordance with the Society of

Automotive Engineers, Shoreline Sound Level Measurement Procedure.

Both the BWSF and the AWSA have approved 75 dBA as the acceptable maximum

standard for noise for water ski boats travelling roughly 30 metres from

shore going between 22 and 36 miles per hour. Both organizations have

conducted tests which found that the modern recreational water ski engines

average around 69 dBA for in-boards and 68 dBA for outboards, which is well

below the 75 dBA level recommended by the British Noise Advisory Council

and the EPA.

A few of the reasons for the reduction in noise are better silencers and

soundproofing through insulating engines. There has also been a greater

shift from outboard to inboard engines, which are quieter by design


It is interesting to note that in 1993 Switzerland had a 72 dBA pass-by

noise limit while Bavaria had a 65 dBA limit. At this time both standards

were beyond the existing capability for most of the small (up to 40 kw

outboard) engines and motor boats (IMEC, '93 p10).

Based on these and other studies in the literature, it can be concluded that noise offences from water ski boats are no greater than those from other boats and noise sources. Water ski boats will also become even quieter as engines are modified over time. The two exceptions are old engines built before 1972, and the brief periods when competitions are held. In certain sites allowances have been made for water ski competitions where noise levels at world class events are allowed to be as high as 105 dBA. For sensitive areas, the BWSF recommends

a limit of 55 dBA (BWSF,'96).

One study undertaken in Belgium on motor boats up to 40kw horsepower

concluded that the shape of the boat hull was significant in determining

the level of noise (IMEC,'93)

Noise is not usually an issue with an electrically powered cable ski tow facility.

While water ski noise levels are much lower because of new engine

technology, motor boats pulling water skiers are still considered a

disturbance to people and wildlife in certain areas. While engine

modifications should continue to reduce noise levels, the question of the

disturbance must still be addressed. The best solution is through

management strategies, which include codes of practice and possibly

restrictions on number of boats, distance from shore, speed limits etc.

Suggested management strategies will be presented in detail in the


2. Fuel and Oil Emissions:

There is not a great deal of recent research on fuel and oil emissions caused by recreational motor boating and water skiing. One study on Lake Constance in the Bodensee, commissioned by the EEC, concluded that overall there is minimal toxic effect caused by boating on the aquatic biota. It is interesting to note that despite this finding the EEC still introduced severe restrictions on Lake Constance, including the ban of 2-stroke engines over 10 horsepower, because of the following:

Prevention principle – this is a valid political principle incorporated

into Swiss law that states that if an impact can be prevented then steps

must be taken.

Boating no exception – many other contributors to hydrocarbons are already

doing a great deal to reduce their emissions which leaves boating as a

major source

Technology lagging – boating is far behind automotive industry so there is

great deal of room for improvement

However, this and many other studies also state that much is not known

about such things as how boat engines contribute to the influx of

polycyclicaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), or the influence PAH or volatile

organic compounds (VOC) have on aquatic biota reproduction.

The lack of research leads one to conclude that either the water ski

population in general does not consider this an important enough issue to

warrant the studies required, or that the tests are too costly or difficult

to undertake. Regardless, the lack of research does not mean that the

water ski population can or should ignore the potential negative impacts.

An abundance of scientific evidence exists to prove that the potential for

damage to water and atmosphere from hydrocarbons must be addressed.

In fact, according to Andre Mele in his book Polluting for Pleasure (1993),

567 million to 1.6 billion litres of unburned fuel is exhausted into the

environment each year by 12 million gas powered pleasure boats in the

United States alone (the percent caused by water ski boats is not

available) As water skiing is a growing sport one could assume that this

figure has risen considerably in the United States since Mele's book was

published. Furthermore, it is likely that there are millions more litres

exhausted annually from water ski activity in other countries around the

world (pp 28-29).

2.1 Marine Engines

According to the UK's Sports Council in its 1993 report 'Water skiing and

the Environment', the majority of engines used for water skiing include 2

and 4 stroke outboards and both diesel and gas inboards. Diesel and propane

engines are not discussed as very little information was available on them

with regard to this project.

This section focuses on the 2-stroke engine as it is by far the largest,

and traditionally the most polluting category of the engines used for water

skiing. According to the boating industry 'the typical boat, is a 17 foot

planing runabout, with a two-stroke outboard motor producing 68 horsepower.

It consumes about 20 gallons of gasoline and 3.5 pints of lubricating oil

during a three-to-four hour afternoon of operation' (Mele, p.26)

The 4-stroke is considerably cleaner as there is no mixing of gas and oil

and they typically get about twice the mileage of a 2-stroke engine.

4-strokes make up a smaller percent of the engines used to pull water

skiers because they are generally more expensive, not as quick at the

start, and are typically heavier motors.

Custom designed water ski boats are not uncommon, and the majority use

specially modified inboard gas engines designed to adapt to the different

operating conditions encountered in water ski towing. A large percent of

these boats run on propane fuel, and not gasoline, which implies that these

boats are cleaner running than gas powered boats. A figure was not

available in the literature to estimate the percent of water ski boats

that fall into this category.


2.1.1 2- Stroke Engines

2-stroke outboard engines have the reputation of being one of the dirtiest of

engines because of an inefficient 'scavenging' process. What this means is

that incoming fuel to the piston's combustion chamber 'scavenges' or pushes

the burned exhaust gases out of the cylinder causing compression, ignition

and energy. Through this scavenging process a significant amount of unburnt

fuel is emitted into the water through the exhaust system.

According to the Water Pollution Control Federation on average, ten to

twenty percent of the original (unburnt) fuel may be discharged, with the

extremes reaching as high as 55 percent (AWSA,Part 4). Both Mele and the

EPA concluded the figure to be around 30 percent. One report from the EPA

suggest that a modern 50 hp 2-stroke outboard emits as many hydrocarbons in

one hour as a typical car does in about 40 hours (Cottage Life Magazine,

July/August '95)

Modern outboard engines exhaust below the surface of the water causing most

hydrocarbons to pass as gas through the water column before evaporating

into the atmosphere. The propeller facilitates the disbursement of much of

the bubbles containing the fuel. The remainder condense and become

suspended in the water column, accumulate in sediments, or form surface

film until they degrade or are released into the atmosphere (Sports


Unburned gasoline contains benzene, toluene and other aromatic compounds

that in high concentrations have been shown to be toxic to various aquatic

organisms. Once burnt, the fuel creates a group of compounds called

polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are linked to cancer and genetic

mutations. Both the lubricating oil and the polycyclic aromatics will

persist in the environment for a much longer period of time then gasoline

(Globe & Mail, May '94).

>From studies performed at Woods Hole, water bodies subjected to motor

boating always show significant degree of induction of enzymes into the

liver of the bottom fish. Scientists believe that this effect indicates a

correlation between motor boating and its toxilogical effect on the aquatic

organisms (G&M, May '94).

In summary, there is no doubt that the emissions from gas motor boat

engines towing water skiers pollutes the environment. To what extent and

how it impacts various organisms and biota is not well defined. As a

general philosophy, the Prevention Principle should be the guiding principle

for all water ski supporters and club operators. More research could be

done so that impacts of fuel and oil emissions are better understood and in

turn prevented. The good news is that both engine manufacturers and

governments are moving in the right direction and will hopefully continue

to do so in the years to come.

3. Disturbance of Waterfowl and Wildlife

In general there appears to be a lack of information on exact impacts

suffered by birds and animals due to water ski activity. The majority of

the research appears to be on wildfowl and, in particular, wintering

wildfowl. There is minimal research on the impact of water skiing on

wildlife or summer populations of waterfowl (Sports Council,'93)

Several studies concluded that the closer to the shoreline and to nesting

sites of waterfowl a motor boat travels the greater likelihood there is for

disturbance of bird and animal species. The UK Sports Council summarized

the issue as follows:

At the local, site specific level, water skiing per se does appear to have

a disturbing impact and causes concern to conservationists. The

disturbance of wildfowl in response to water skiing activity has been

observed at a variety of locations and ranges from the birds taking flight

to redistribution around the site or desertion of the site. The level at

which local impacts may increase and combine in the future to have a

national impact is uncertain (Broads Authority,'97 p 60)

The Sports Council literature review on the subject found that for some

species, particularly sensitive birds, the "speed, noise and erratic

movement of the water skier can be a potential threat to less tolerant

species. Additionally, birds which may tolerate a constant low level of

noise, may not tolerate the erratic noise of water skiing activity" (Broads

Authority '97,p61).

In general, studies conclude that more research is required especially on

seasonal variations of certain species and such things as rare or

endangered species. Each site should have a good understanding of what

type of waterfowl and wildlife inhabit the regions where their members

water ski. Club operators would be wise to develop management plans with

strategies to reduce impacts to protect the species. Suggestions of how

club operators can do this will be outlined in the handbook.



Denham Green, UK

In one application document for a water ski facility in the UK, extensive

work was done to develop the facility in conjunction with a nature

conservation area. The plan includes an integration of sport and nature

and some of the features proposed include:

A re-grading of steep-sided lake edges where possible to a shallower

profile to provide marginal aquatic shelves

Planting of specific aquatic vegetation to encourage colonization of

aquatic species and breeding habitats

A dedicated breeding bird sanctuary located on constructed islands for

screening, breeding and loafing. These will be constructed using material

gained from re-profiling the lake sides.

Channels will be cut at certain points to provide wooded island breeding


Certain areas will ban public access and will become 'no-go' areas-some are

expected to become grassland habitats where practicable

The site will include a slalom course located away from bird islands

No water based activity will take place in much of the overwintering season

The use of gas powered boats will be allied to lake depth to minimize


The entire site would be managed by a comprehensive plan developed with one

of UK's noted conservation bodies, English Nature. (A Proposal for an

Integrated Water-ski and Nature Conservation Facility at Denham Green, '94)

4. Geomorphology -- Wash and Bank Erosion

Bank erosion rates vary according to the form and composition of the

shoreline, the shoreline gradient, and with the degree of natural or

artificial protection. Furthermore, research has found that most damage

occurs in areas with unstable, unvegetated shorelines, and/or a weak

vegetative growth (AWSA, Executive Summary of Scientific Literature on

Outboard-Powered Boats, #3) The degree of impact that water skiing has on

the shoreline is a result of the relationship between the number of boats,

the shape of the boat hull, the speed of the boat, the depth of the water,

and the distance the boat is from shore.

The relationship between wash and these factors is complex. For example, a

deep draft, slow-moving boat causes more wash than fast-moving water ski

boat with a planing hull. Some boats create a larger wash when

accelerating to or decelerating from planing speed. One study found that a

water ski boat operating 25m from shore had a wash no greater than that

from a strong wind. At 100 m from the shore the effect was negligible

(Pearce, '89)

A key factor is how far away from shore the boats and water skiers pass.

According to several studies most damage can occur at distances under 100

metres and that a safe distance where boats should not pass is 150 m or 500

feet of an erosion susceptible shoreline (Sports Council '93, p48).

One of the best studies on wave effect is by the Broads Authority that

found that the total potential for erosion by water skiing over a year was

not much greater than other boating activity. However, when peak season

was factored in at the busiest ski area of the Broads, it was concluded

that "the total potential for erosion by water skiing was

an additional 81% over and above that of general boat traffic." And, on a

per hour basis it was concluded that the average ski boat does at least

three times as much damage as the worst dayboat (Broads Authority,'97 p


Other studies have shown that wave action affects submerged aquatic

vegetation directly through biomass removal, seedling displacement and

propagule transport or indirectly through erosion, sorting and deposition

of sediment (Sports Council '93, pg 48)

One study in Florida on boat traffic found that it was a major cause of

shoreline erosion, especially along shorelines vegetated by mangroves.

Boat wakes were noted to affect mangroves directly interfering with

recruitment, washing sediments out of the forest floor, and causing roots

to break. Mangroves were also directly affected by increased turbidity in

the root zone (Henigar and Ray Engineering Associates, '89)

The problem of boat wash can be remediated through a combination of actions

including the planting of certain types of vegetation, the reconstruction

of shorelines, the buffering of shorelines and a range of other

diversionary steps. Furthermore, a management plan that restricts the

proximity to shore a motor boat and skier can travel should be in place

where needed. Suggestions for reducing wash and minimizing bank erosion

will be outlined in the handbook.


5. Aquatic Biota – Pollution and Turbidity

The direct effect of water skiing and recreational boating on the aquatic

biota is not well documented in recent literature. In the late 60's and

early 70's considerable research on fuel emission pollution on the biota

was undertaken, particularly in the United States. At this time, study

after study found that in general there were not significant impacts on

microorganisms or fish due to fuel emissions.

There are often many contributing factors which compound the issue of water

pollution and make it difficult to assess the extent of damage water skiing

has on the biota. The damage that does occur appears to be taking place

close to shorelines and marinas (particularly near fueling stations), in

waterways with high traffic, and at sites close to sources of pollution.

Several studies found that shallow bodies of water subjected to high

rates of motor boat traffic typically have higher rates of hydrocarbon

pollution. Water skiing does contribute to the hydrocarbon levels in these particular areas as almost all skiers start and end near shore, and some of the

greatest need for fuel takes place at the start of the tow.

In Naples Bay, Florida it was concluded that the condition of natural,

estuarine resources and surrounding inshore waters would worsen with increased boat traffic. The pollutants were primarily fuel, oils, and grease. Because these compounds float their effects on productive intertidal areas would be more pronounced. Denser forms of the compounds became incorporated into

the sediments and could affect bottom-dwelling organisms (Henigar and Ray

Engineering Associates, '89)



Lake X, Florida

This study on hydrocarbon pollution in particular is well known and was

undertaken in Florida on Lake X, a 1400 acre body of water that had been

used by Mercury Marine as an engine test site. Accurate records had been

kept as to hours of engine use and the amount of fuel consumed over a ten

year period. In the spring of 1969 the company engaged the services of an

engineering company to test the water of Lake X and compare it with the

waters of another Florida lake called Cat Lake, one which had never been

exposed to outboard motor boat operation. A series of 34 chemical and

physical comparisons made between the water samples taken from each lake

showed no discernable difference in water quality. The Lake X water showed

no evidence of contamination from hydrocarbons in the exhaust water, and

phytoplankton and bottom organisms were not affected by exhaust emissions.

Because of the Lake X study, additional, similar studies were undertaken in

the 70's and the results were the same; there was no significant difference

in water quality as a result of outboard operation (AWSA, Available

Resources Part 5)

While this case was good news for water skiing and motor boating in the 70s

the same study may have different implications today. While the aquatic

biota may not have been adversely impacted at sites with relatively low

concentrations of pollutants, this is not the case for species subjected to

high concentrations of hydrocarbon pollutants-- typically they show toxic


These pollutants usually end up in one of three sites; bound in sediments,

bioaccumulated in animals and humans, and more likely dispersed into the

air we breathe. We know a great deal more today about how airborne

hydrocarbons interact with other elements to create deadly acids and oxides

and how damaging these are to our environment.

In 1987 the carcinogenic antifouling paint Tributyltin (TBT) was banned in

the UK on vessels under 25 metres in length. However, TBT is still used on

crafts over 25 metres. This biocide is intended to prevent microorganisms

from adhering themselves to the hull and causing damage and reduced fuel

efficiency. Copper has now replaced TBT and it is uncertain what impact

this may have on the biota (BMIF,'94,p2.4)

By and large, the majority of the literature reviewed reported that there

was no significant impact to the aquatic biota due to water skiing.

However one has to wonder how so many millions of litres of fuel can be

emitted into the water and not significantly affect the biota. Perhaps

the issue is one of time -- as the number of motor boats and water skiers

increase, the concentration of pollutants may rise to levels which are

classified as having 'very significant' impacts on the aquatic biota.

Fortunately, steps are now being taken with recent changes to engines and

to regulations on emissions to help reduce such impacts. The handbook can

guide club operators on ways to reduce impacts, and provide valuable

information for the water skier to make environmentally wise choices when

purchasing marine engines.

5.1 Turbidity

Turbidity is caused when engine propellers and/or boat wash stir up bottom

sediments in shallow waters. The degree of turbidity is directly

proportional to the depth of the water. It appears to be the common

opinion in North America and Europe that the minimum depth a water ski boat

should operate in is 2 metres (BWSF). Increases in turbidity are

negligible for water ski boats in water greater than 2.5 metres (Pearce,

'89, Sports Council '93)

There is little doubt that increased turbidity decreases the amount of

light in a water column and in turn reduces the growth of submerged aquatic

vegetation. One study found that an increase in turbidity caused an

increase in phosphorous concentrations which in turn may be the cause for

an increase in algae growth, chlorophyll concentrations, and gross oxygen

production (Yousef, '78) Another study on the Norfolk Broads found that an

increase in turbidity was caused by high concentration of phytoplankton and

not boating activity (Moss,'77).

Another impact from motor boat engines and turbidity is a loss of aquatic

macrophytes due to shading. One study found that regular boat use

destroyed established beds of aquatic vegetation in shallow water. In

these areas there was less fine sediment, a reduced pH, and a reduced

oxidation-reduction potential in the bottom sediments (Chmura, Ross '78)

To summarize, turbidity is not a new issue and is controllable where water

skiing is a contributing factor. The first step would be to restrict water

ski boats from entering waters less than 2.5 metres in depth. The

exception being when starting and finishing a ski tow. Other measures will

be outlined in the handbook under management practices for club operators.



Parallels have been made in the literature between the boating and the

automotive industries with respect to the evolution of pollution control

devices, and why the boating industry is so far behind the automotive

industry. This is especially significant when one considers that the large

auto manufacturers are also the engineers behind many marine engines.

General opinion finds that the boating industry has not made significant

advancements in controlling its fuel emissions and noise levels primarily

because of lack of government regulations (and public pressure) and

manufacturer initiative, and not because of lack of technological

capabilities (Mele,'93). All indications are that the boating industry,

primarily engine and boat manufacturers, are just now being urged to make

the environmental leap forward which the automotive industry did some 10 to

20 years ago.

The following two issues are recent positive developments in motor boating

aimed at bridging this pollution control gap:

1. Fuel Emission Regulations – forcing change

2. New Technology – significant reduction in hydrocarbons

One of the most significant steps taken recently by a country to control

fuel emissions was by the USA when its Environmental Protection Agency

introduced a phased-in emission control program to reduce motor boat engine

emissions by 75% by 2006 (see Appendix B for EPA Regulations). Each year

from 1998 to 2006 clean new engines will replace older ones, culminating in

a 60 to 80 percent reduction in total industry hydrocarbons (EPA, Boating

Industry, Oct.'93) In arriving at this regulation, the EPA worked closely

with the Association of Marine Engine Manufacturers (AMEM) .

This has significant global implications for water skiing as a large

percent of the engine manufacturers gear their products to the U.S.

marketplace. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association,

"the U.S. market for marine products represents fully one-half of worldwide

demand. As the new generation marine engines are discovered and purchased

in other countries, the benefits of environmental gains in the U.S. will

accrue globally" (NMMA web site)

To compare, the 1991 worldwide production of outboard engines totaled 1

million. Of these the European market was responsible for acquiring

150,000 units (TNO,'91).

In looking briefly at purchasing power, it is obvious that the U.S. holds

the lion's share. It is therefore encouraging to see that these recent

modifications and regulations will have positive global spin-off effects.

Environment Canada is expected to mirror the EPA's emission control

regulations once it ratifies its Environmental Protection Act to allow for

regulations to be introduced for non-road engines. According to Leif

Stevenson from the Transportation Systems Branch of Environment Canada, any

Canadian regulations will most likely piggy back on the EPA ones now in

place with some modifications for the Canadian marketplace (see Appendix

for Environment Canada Memorandum).

One of the main ways manufacturers of marine motors are going to reduce

emissions is through the redesign of their 2-stroke engines. These engines

are now being built using the direct inject fuel system whereby the fuel is

injected directly into the cylinder

after closure of the exhaust port. Orbital is one company that has a

patent on this new engine and recently made a deal with Mercury Marine to

market the new product under the Optimax brand. According to Mercury

Marine President, Mr. George Buckley:

This highlights the significant success that Optimax direct injection

engines are having in the market. The new engines offer smooth running

quality, have virtually eliminated annoying exhaust fumes and give an

average 40 percent better fuel economy, in addition to emission reductions

that exceed EPA 2006 standards. Customer satisfaction with this increased

boating pleasure is reflected in our recent decision to increase production

in the forthcoming year by around 50% over previous.

This announcement comes after a similar commitment from Bombardier Inc.,

manufacturer of about half the world's personal watercraft, in April of

this year. These recent commitments by the two most important

manufacturers in the marine industry are an acknowledgement that the

industry is moving closer to the standards seen today in the automotive

industry (Orbital Engine Corporation, press release, web site, July 98.).

Estimates are that this new 2-stroke design will cut CO emissions by 85-90

percent and hydrocarbon emissions by 95%. Unfortunately, the emission of

nitrous oxides will increase because more fuel is being burnt. Also, using

less lubrication from a 2 percent to 1 percent ratio and using a synthetic

biodegradable lubricant oil will significantly reduce the emission of oil

into the water (TNO Industrial Reseach,'91).

These new engines, combined with better pollution control devices and

closer matching of engines to hull designs and efficiency of propeller

installations, will result in high efficiency fuel injection, lean burn

techniques, and significant reduction of burnt and unburnt hydrocarbons.

With respect to boat hulls, modifications to their design have decreased

noise levels, fuel consumption, and reduced wave action. In the UK, one

manufacturer was awarded the English Tourist Board award (1993) for its

'eco-hull' narrowboat which produce a low wash/wave and in turn greater

fuel efficiency (BMI p.9)

The end result of these modifications and regulations is a significant

reduction in hydrocarbon emissions and noise levels. Consequently, there

will be additional benefits from reduced hydrocarbon loading on the ozone

layer, acid rain, smog, and diseases like cancer and respiratory illnesses.

All good news for the water ski industry.



Lake Windermere – Lake District National Park

Lake Windermere is considered England's largest lake and has suffered from

excessive noise, wave wash, and irresponsible behavior by boaters and water

skiers. Eleven thousand registered motor boats use the lake and there are

1000 moorings and jetties. The average number of boats on a summer Sunday

reached a peak in 1977 at 1400 per day. Water skiing has increased

steadily since the 1970's.

In 1989 the National Park Authority began a consultation process to find a

solution to these problems.

In this situation legal powers did not exist to make bylaws which would

require boat users to have insurance or prevent them the right to public

access to the lake. It was also not possible for the Park Authority to

introduce a comprehensive zoning scheme. After considerable discussion,

the Lake District's Special Planning Board decided to introduce a bye-law

for a single 10 mph speed limit over the whole lake.

This proposal was the subject of a planning inquiry which lasted 14 weeks

and one that became a national issue. Both the BWSF and the Sports Council

were in opposition saying that their members were losing the right to enjoy

a national park and that up to 750 jobs would be lost from four water ski

instruction centres and other facilities.

After much discussion, review and debate the Board agreed to work with the

Sports Council and BWSF to produce a management plan and a code of conduct

for the lake. The management plan introduced a strategy whereby water

skiing, motor boat racing and recreational motor boating were permitted on

Lake Windermere under certain circumstances.

An annual boat registration was introduced and driver's licenses were

issued for boats and drivers who wished to travel over the 10 mph limit.

The drivers must pass a driving test and comply with a written Code of

Conduct and the Windermere Bye-Laws. They also must arrange for their

boat to have an annual Ministry of Transportation noise test to ensure that

they meet a defined noise level. Those boats which pass the test must

carry their noise emission certificate at all times on the boat.

A boat testing station was established on Lake Windermere to ensure boats

initially met the noise standard and can be checked periodically throughout

the year. Each boat meeting the standard must show a coloured letter

attached to the hull. A maximum 40 mph speed limit was set for all boats

and between sunset and 7am all boats must mind the 10 mph speed limit. Any

radios or hi-fi equipment must be operated at a respectable level and not

cause offense to other lake or shore users.

In addressing the shoreline erosion and wildlife disturbance issues, a

zoning restriction was introduced whereby boats cannot pass within 50

metres of any shoreline or 50 metres of any area designated as being a

'sensitive area' on the management map. Water skiing shall not take place

within 50 metres of any moored boats. Powerboats towing a skier must start

off directly at 90 degrees from the shore rather than at a tangent. And

finally, water skiing shall not take place within areas of seasonal

constraint as designated by the management committee and described on their

management map. This would include waterfowl wintering areas, spring and

fall spawning of char regions, and a wildlife refuge (Lake Windermere

Public Inquiry, The Management Plan and Code of Conduct, Sports





There were several benefits to the environment due to water skiing found in

a limited number of publications. These included:


Due to the engine propeller, oxygen is introduced into the water and this

is especially beneficial in stagnant bodies of water or shallow, poorly

oxygenated waters. The introduction of oxygen allows for growth of

beneficial microorganisms which in turn allows for species diversification

and proliferation (FFSN, Le Ski Nautique et L'Environment, '82, van

Donkelaar, Positive Environmental Effects of Pleasure Boating, '94).

Furthermore, one study found that the aeration process in the wake of a

boat offers efficient mechanisms for the removal of polluting substances,

particularly hydrocarbons, from the water. These mechanisms are used in

the removal of engine exhaust emissions but also for substances from other

sources which are already present before the boat passed (van Donkelaar, '94)

Algae and Coliform:

In some bodies of water which do not have boating it was found that there

was a higher incidence of algae growth compared to ones subject to boat

traffic. According to the author of one study, "under field conditions,

boating activities tend to correlate positively with a healthy

environment". The same study also reported that coliform counts in open

waters subjected to high boat traffic were well below EU limits for

swimming water compared to values found in moorings and shallow areas of

the same body of water (van Donkelaar, '94)

Waterfowl and Wildlife:

In the case mentioned above regarding Denham Green, both waterfowl and

wildlife would benefit from the conservation measures proposed,

particularly the construction of islands as part of the bird sanctuary.

Some additional measures proposed included a ban on fishing so that birds

would not be disturbed, the preservation of grasslands, and the creation of

marginal wetlands to improve waterfowl habitats. All these measures were

part of a comprehensive plan to combine water skiing with nature and could

possibly be duplicated in other sites around the world.


Personal Water Craft – from very preliminary research we found that the PWC

industry has just this past year produced crafts that are significantly

quieter and emit less fuel. We are awaiting information from manufacturers to

verify details.



The following is an outline of the recommendations for the IWSF handbook.

We suggest the handbook be divided into 3 sections with the first being an

educational section on the issues and how water skiing impacts the

environment. The second and third sections being addressed to the club and

marina operators and the member / water skiers respectively (unless the

IWSF just wants this handbook for club operators)

The recommendations for sections two and three would include the



Pre-Construction Criteria – if a club has not yet been built or established

this list of criteria will recommend best sites or key features to find for

a site which will have least environmental impact i.e. site far from tidal

rivers and coastal waters, strong geomorphology (not sand or gravel) and

good vegetative coverage to withstand wash impact , depth of water over 2

metres etc.


General Management Plan – this would list the criteria or headings which

every club should have in their management plan to cover all aspects of

operation and user activity. Under this broad plan would fall the

environmental management system and its component parts:

Environmental Management System – A detailed EMS would be outlined by

heading to cover the A to Z of management of the club. This would include

such steps for the management to follow with regards to liquid and solid

waste management, recycling, re-use, energy efficiency and so on.

Inventory – a list of what should be accounted for by the club, including

its properties, boats, machinery etc. A list of stakeholders is important

part of this inventory.

Field Research - a list of the possible issues to be assessed including

shoreline, birds, animals etc. For each issue, suggestions and practical

steps would be listed in point form. For example, if a site needs to

protect its shoreline from wash, some points may include the spatial and

temporal zoning of vegetation, the types of vegetation to plant,

construction of banks, etc.

Code of Practice – a table of contents in handbook would guide club

operators on what to include in this such as description of

responsibilities and expectations members agree to before being allowed to

use facilities and waterways. Some suggested steps include restrictions,

bye-laws, or mores of water skiing which all members would follow. Also,

testing drivers and issuing licenses, providing boat registration, special

licenses for higher speeds (i.e. for competition driving), how to handle

fuel, what to do with waste fuel or hazardous waste, type of paints

acceptable etc. These would be point form and not detailed instructions on

how to.

Code of Conduct for Noise – Using the BWSF's Code of Conduct for Noise as a

guide, a table of contents would list what a code for noise would include —

some suggestions may be an industry accepted decibel standard , annual

noise testing for boat and engine, noise level permits, no-pass zones,

acceptable types of engines etc.

Education/Communication Program – a list of suggestions that could come

under the EMS for environmental education may include tips to remind

members about environmental issues and practices. For example, using a

post it board, or newsletter to remind boat drivers and skiers about noise

levels, no-pass zones, restricted zones, new fuel efficient engines etc.



The goal of this section would be to educate the member/water skier so that

they make choices and take actions because they have a responsibility and

hopefully desire to do so (as explained in section one of the handbook).

This section would include the following:

Engines and Boats — a brief overview of what is available in fuel

efficient, quiet engines and boats i.e. what criteria to look for in an

engine including acceptable fuel consumption and emission rates. This

could be done without getting into brand name identification.

How Water Skiers Can Make a Difference – a section of tips on how they can

drive and ski responsibly and benefit the environment. References would be

made to Codes of Practice and Conduct for Noise. Other tips such as how

to clean and re-paint boats or equipment without adding pollutants or

hazardous wastes and so on would also be included.



It can be stated that, in general water skiing does not have a major,

negative impact on the environment with the exception of its contribution

of hydrocarbons to waterways and the atmosphere.

The issue of hydrocarbon emissions is significant and one which has not

been given enough attention in the past by the water ski population. This

is especially relevant when considering the potential destructive impact

that billions of litres of fuel used for water skiing has on the global

environment. The advancements with engines and regulations are very recent

and it may take many years before significant reductions are achieved.

However, the good news is that some major engine manufacturers are already

producing engines that comply with the 2006 EPA emission control standard.

The perceived image of water skiing as noisy, polluting and disturbing to

waterfowl and wildlife will likely continue for many years to come. As

water and land use come under greater pressures there will be increased

need for management plans and policies to ensure all users' rights are

upheld, and the environment protected. It is therefore important that

water ski organizations encourage their members to take steps to reduce the

environmental impacts of water skiing. In particular, they can support and

possibly finance studies and research on specific issues like fuel

emissions, disturbance to waterfowl and wildlife, and wash impact.

While this project examined water skiing and its impacts in the field (or

rather on the water), some consideration must be given to the associated

impacts of participating in the sport. We refer here to a cradle to grave

approach that includes many factors such as the impacts of travelling to

and from bodies of water, the materials and pollution used to build the

engines and boats, packaging and so on. Perhaps some strategies and

management plans could be developed by water ski organizations and club

operators to help reduce such impacts.

There is no question that the sport is moving in the right direction with

respect to the environment. With some guidance and encouragement from

national and international bodies, considerably more could be done to

dispel the myths and benefit the environment. The handbook is one tool

that could help with these two goals.



EPA Regulations (

Environment Canada Memorandum (copy sent by e-mail and fax)

Bibliography (to come)