PRESS RELEASE: IWA’s Gaptracker Survey Identifies Boaters' Concerns About Basic Facilities

Issue date: 26th February 2019

The Inland Waterways Association has published the results of its Gaptracker Survey, which identifies that the majority of boaters who responded to the survey are concerned about the basic facilities provided by navigation authorities (drinking water and waste disposal), rather than other services such as showers, pump-out and laundry.  The survey, which ran on IWA’s website during the second half of last year, asked boaters to identify areas on the UK’s waterways where facilities are missing or are in poor condition.  

Hundreds of comments were received about facilities provided by nine different navigation authorities.  IWA will follow up the results with each authority individually, with Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency and the Middle Level Commissioners all saying that they will welcome the findings.  

Steve Warwicker, Chairman of IWA’s Navigation Committee, said “An overwhelming 84% of the responses were about water points, rubbish disposal or portable toilet emptying, indicating a strong demand for those basic facilities.  IWA looks forward to working in partnership with navigation authorities to progress ways for this report to assist in prioritising improvements across the waterways system.”

The report identifies a number of recommendations which IWA will be asking navigation authorities to adopt, including the general principle that the three basic facilities of drinking water, portable toilet emptying and rubbish disposal should continue to be provided by navigation authorities, without any additional cost to licence holders, at frequencies within 5 hours boating time.  

Ahead of working with other navigation authorities, IWA has initially shared the findings of the survey with Canal & River Trust, who have welcomed the report.  A spokesman said “We value having such a robust and productive relationship with the IWA.  We are already working in partnership with them, and with our navigation advisory group, other boating organisations, and boaters, to understand boaters’ needs and how we can meet them as best we can, within the resources available.

“We want to provide the best possible service to boaters that our resources allow, and as such we always welcome feedback on where things can be improved.  The Trust spends hundreds of thousands of pounds installing and maintaining boater facilities each year. It’s important that we find an affordable way to provide what boaters need, in the face of the ongoing cost pressures faced by the Trust.  We will be carrying out a review of all our facilities, alongside those provided by third parties, with a focus on ensuring a consistent level of standards for the core services boaters need. The IWA Gaptracker facilities survey results will contribute to our review.”



Overview of Gaptracker Report

84% of the 461 responses related to the three basic facilities (water points, rubbish disposal and portable toilet emptying), indicating a strong demand for those basic facilities over and above additional facilities which are sometimes provided elsewhere.  

The issue that was the subject of the highest number of comments was portable toilet emptying with 27% of the responses, with the next highest issue being rubbish disposal with 16% of the comments.  Most of the comments about existing rubbish facilities were about overflowing bins, suggesting either overuse by non-boaters or unsatisfactory contract emptying arrangements.  Water points accounted for 12% of comments.  

Whilst recycling was raised as an issue by a number of respondents, it was overwhelmed by the number of comments about general rubbish disposal. Very few people commented on pump-out, showers, toilets and electric charging points.

The report identifies a number of recommendations which IWA hopes navigation authorities will adopt, including:  

The basic facilities of drinking water, portable toilet emptying and rubbish disposal should continue to be provided by navigation authorities, and should be available 24 hours a day at no direct cost to boaters (but should be paid for out of licence/registration fee income). 

Basic facilities should be provided in sufficient locations that it will take no longer than 5 hours (under normal boating conditions) to cruise between.

Rubbish bins should be in locked compounds, or accessible only from the water, to cut down the amount of rubbish being added by non-boaters.  

New facilities could be of much simpler design than some of the current buildings, which are expensive to maintain.  

  • Third party provision for the 3 basic facilities (eg in a marina) is only acceptable (to fill in gaps between navigation authority provided facilities) if they are accessible 24 hours a day at no charge.  
  • Litter bin and toilet provision for use by the general public is an issue that navigation authorities should work with local authorities over, but is not something that IWA would expect navigation authorities to fund.  

Read the full GapTracker report giving more detail about the findings of the survey.


Photo Caption:  “What a Load of Rubbish” – a common scene at many rubbish points provided for use by boaters around the waterways system.  

Higher resolution photograph and alternative images available on request.  

Press Contact

For further information please contact Alison Smedley, Press Office, The Inland Waterways Association, by emailing or phoning 01494 783453 ext 619.  

Notes for Editors

About The Inland Waterways Association

The Inland Waterways Association is the membership charity that works to protect and restore the country's 6,500 miles of canals and rivers.  IWA is a national organisation with a network of volunteers and branches who deploy their expertise and knowledge to work constructively with navigation authorities, government and other organisations.  The Association also provides practical and technical support to restoration projects through its expert Waterway Recovery Group.


Photo: Overflowing rubbish bins following the removal of a fence, photo by Brian Jarrett. Higher resolution photos available on request.