The use of a trip boat on the River Derwent caused a dispute between the Yorkshire Derwent Trust and some riverside landowners over the right of navigation. The Derwent Trust prepared for legal action and started a fighting fund to raise £20,000 at IWA's National Rally. IWA offered the Trust £6,000. The Montgomery Waterway Trust was formed and was visited by the Prince of Wales, whose Committee was to play a major part in the restoration of the Montgomery Canal.
IWA's National Waterways Festival was held at Lea Bridge on the River Lee. About 500 boats and 25,000 people attended. IWA membership reached 19,274.
Kings Norton (Wast Hill) Tunnel on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal was reopened after a 2½ year closure for repairs, but Leek Tunnel, on the Leek Branch of the Caldon Canal and Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line were closed. Anderton Lift, giving access between the Trent & Mersey Canal and the River Weaver, was also closed for seven months.
The Top Lock at Frankton, on the Montgomery Canal, was restored and the top gate ceremonially hung by John Biffen, Secretary of State for Trade.
IWA issued two writs against the Middle Level Commissioners, one relating to the closure of Horseway Lock and the other to the obstruction of Bevill's Leam.
IWA's National Rally and Waterside Arts Festival was held on the Aire & Calder Navigation at Leeds with 410 boats, including many commercial craft, in attendance. IWA membership ended the year at 18,838, a drop of 436 and the first recorded annual decline.
At the end of the year the Government announced that British Waterways would get an extra £7 million to help with its many problems with major structures including tunnels and reservoirs.
IWA made a £1,000 loan to the Linton Lock Commissioners so they could dredge the cut above the lock to reopen the lock following winter floods on the Yorkshire Ouse and the river Ure. The Robert Aickman appeal, launched by IWA following his death in 1981, raised £24,000 for the Upper Avon Navigation Trust. Ken Goodwin took over as IWA Chairman after John Heap's retirement.
British Waterways undertook several major engineering projects including work on Boddington Reservoir on the Oxford Canal, Coombs Reservoir on the Peak Forest Canal, Stoke Bardolph Lock on the Trent, Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line and Preston Brook Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal.
Around 40.000 people and just under 500 boats attended IWA's National Rally at Titford on the Birmingham Canal Navigations. The "National" had been held here in 1978 and this is the first time it had returned to a previous venue.