Provision of Boater's Facilities

Updated: November 2015

This briefing note sets out The Inland Waterways Association’s views on the provision of boaters’ facilities along the waterways. Such facilities usually include water points and rubbish and sewage disposal points, but can also include toilets, showers, laundry and recycling facilities.


Boaters staying on board their boats, whether at a mooring or navigating the system, need regular access to a number of facilities including water points and waste disposal points for general rubbish, recycling and toilet waste. Such facilities should be accessible on a suitably frequent basis, in working order, reliable and any costs should reflect the current market rate.

Navigation authorities are generally responsible for the provision of facilities. Canal & River Trust states that it provides facilities at frequent intervals (CRT 2015a) with 1000s of water points (CRT 2015b) and hundreds of water-side waste disposal facilities for rubbish (although only some have recycling facilities) (CRT 2015c). It also suggests that boaters make use of certain facilities provided at boatyards and marinas (CRT 2015a). CRT services its pumps annually, cleans sewage disposal points between one and five times a week and aims to keep bowsers (used to supply water points in more rural locations) topped up (CRT 2015b).

However, in some locations the provision of facilities does not meet demand. One example is in London. The London Assembly’s paper Moor or less Moorings on London’s waterways (Greater London Authority 2015) noted that in Central London facilities were spaced far apart and totalled five water taps, four rubbish and sewage disposal points and three pump-out facilities. The lack of facilities to cater for the demand is a problem in itself but also causes moorings close to the limited facilities to become congested. Many who contributed to the paper called for an increase in the number of facilities on Central London’s waterways and the Assembly certainly felt that to date the provision of facilities had not increased in line with the increase in boaters on London’s waterways, or in line with the opportunities provided to introduce new facilities by developments (Greater London Authority 2015, p.15).

The paper noted that the provision of more facilities would require investment, and that it was not favourable if this resulted in an increase in fees. It was suggested instead that navigation authorities take a more strategic approach to the problem looking for opportunities to work with others and find alternative funding. Additionally, it noted that increasing the accessibility of existing facilities should be investigated. For example, it should be made clear that facilities close to permanent moorings are for general use and ways to deal with vandalism and long response times to breakdowns should be explored (Greater London Authority 2015, p.15).

Minimum Standards

IWA believes that there should be minimum standards for the provision of boaters’ facilities across the waterways network regardless of the navigation authority or landowner. Ideally, every waterway should have:

  • Facilities at regular points:
    • Water points, rubbish disposal points and sewage disposal points at intervals that can be covered preferably in five hours (navigation authorities and land owners should aim for this) and no more than ten hours typical cruising. Navigation authorities should seek to increase provision to ideally occur within every 5 hours of cruising.  
    • Pump-out facilities at intervals that can be covered in no more than 10 hours cruising (including those provided at boatyards and other third party providers).
  • Recycling points at the majority of rubbish disposal points, as recycling is currently seriously under-catered for and when cruising accessing recycling points away from the water is not always practical or possible.
  • Facilities that are appropriate for the demand in the area:
    • Capacities of waste disposal facilities should accommodate the demand.
    • Facilities should be maintained in accordance to the level of traffic that uses them (e.g. sewage disposal points with high traffic should be cleaned more regularly than those used only occasionally).
  • Facilities that are adequately protected from vandalism.
  • Appropriate systems in place to deal with the breakdown of facilities in a timely fashion.

Facilities provided by navigation authorities and landowners can be supplemented by those available at boatyards and marinas. IWA considers it desirable that all existing and new marinas that cater for visiting boats should provide the following facilities for such boaters. For this, the boater would expect to pay charges reflecting a market value based on the facilities provided and the location.

  • Small sites should provide rubbish disposal and a freshwater tap, along with toilet waste disposal facilities and mains electricity where practicable.
  • Medium sites should provide rubbish disposal and a freshwater tap (with a reasonable flow of water), mains electricity, toilets, toilet waste disposal and pump-out, along with laundry where practicable.
  • Large sites should provide, in addition to the above, disposal facilities for oily waste, fuel sales, maintenance services and a chandlery.

However, navigation authorities and landowners should not rely on these facilities to meet the desired frequency of facilities outlined above as they are not all accessible out of hours.

Where waterside developments, including marinas and housing, are proposed, the inclusion of boaters’ facilities should be encouraged. Inclusion of facilities in development plans is an alternative way to produce more facilities at potentially reduced costs. CRT already encourages, or sometimes requires, developers to provide boaters’ facilities as part of plans to develop CRT sites. An example is Loughborough Wharf, where a former BW yard has been developed in to student accommodation, but included boaters’ facilities. Such opportunities should be explored wherever appropriate.

Boaters should be considerate in their use of all facilities in order to keep facilities in operation for other users.  

The construction of new facilities should, where possible, be on mains water and sewage and not rely on bowsers or macerators.  


IWA believes that good access to facilities is essential and should be achieved by ensuring:

  • All access points to a facilities site and the facilities themselves meet current Health & Safety legislation and the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 2004.
  • Mooring points for boaters using the facilities are safe.
  • Mooring rings or bollards are provided for vessels to use in line with best mooring practice and to limit damage to the bank. These should be placed between the bank and walking surface to avoid ropes crossing the towpath.
  • Access paths to the facilities are clean, safe and well maintained.
  • Vegetation is maintained around the mooring area and facilities including regular cutting of grass.


London is not the exception as there are a number of places across the waterways system where more boaters’ facilities are needed at more regular intervals; an example is the Grand Union Canal through Leicester where there are currently no facilities between Loughborough and Kilby Bridge.  

There is certainly a need to think strategically when considering how to meet the need for more facilities so as to fund new facilities in ways that do not necessarily require fee increases.  Encouraging waterside developers to include boaters’ facilities in their projects is one way of doing this. Existing facilities should also be looked at to see how they could be improved to be more efficient. It may be that the introduction of new facilities to a site such as recycling or pump-out points would provide a more-rounded service that is in demand; or that the introduction of measures to reduce vandalism and decrease breakdown response times would increase the reliability and decrease the downtime of existing facilities so that demand is better met.

Further Information

Further information on topics briefly touched here can be found in the following briefing notes and policy documents:

Standards for Construction, Restoration and maintenance of Inland Waterways

Mooring Policy on Navigable Waterways

Towpaths Policy


CRT (2015a).Water points and sewage disposal. [Online]. [Accessed 17 June 2015]

CRT (2015b). Facilities. [Online]. [Accessed 17 June 2015]

CRT (2015c). Rubbish & recycling. [Online]. [Accessed 17 June 2015]

Greater London Authority (2013). Moor or less Moorings on London’s Waterways. [Online]. [Accessed 17 June2015].

Photo: Water point on Reach Lode, Cambridgeshire

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IWA Briefing Note - Provision of Boater's Facilities (107KB, A4, 4 pages)

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