Locks from Todmorden up to the Summit of the Rochdale Canal were officially reopened making almost half the canal navigable, although still separated from the rest of the system by the obstruction at Tuel Lane.
In August HM The Queen re-opened the Kennet & Avon Canal.
IWA issued policy statements on Moorings and Towpaths. IWA Membership was calculated at 22,268 but this was to prove an over estimate of between 2,000 and 3,000 when records were computerised a few years later.
IWA's National Festival at Gloucester on the Gloucester & Sharpness Ship Canal was sponsored by Volvo Penta and had Sonia Rolt, Charles Hadfield and Sir John Knill as Patrons. The National Trailboat Rally was held at Falkirk on the Forth & Clyde Canal.
A long stoppage took place on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal due to an embankment failure at Blackburn. British Waterways announced plans to install Fibre Optic Cables under their towpaths. Attempts to re-water Bugsworth Basin on the Peak Forest Canal failed due to leakage.
On 10th May 1991, HRH The Duke of Kent formally reopened 32 miles of the Basingstoke Canal.
IWA National Festival was held at Windmill End on the Dudley Canal. 768 boats arrived and the police estimated that 385,000 people visited. A Campaign Festival, attended by 118 boats and around 10,000 people, was held in June at Sheffield to promote the Sheffield Canal and to get it upgraded from a "remainder" waterway to "cruiseway" status. The National Trailboat Festival was held at Malthouse on the Norfolk Broads.
In December, The Yorkshire Derwent Trust lost its long running battle for the right of navigation on the river when a decision by the Law Lords ruled against it.
Concerns were raised by the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust over the Birmingham Northern Relief Road, which threatened to block the restoration of the Hatherton Branch of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal. The Black Country Spine Road was also planned to cut off the Ridgacre Branch of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, and about 50 boats took part in a protest cruise, but part of the branch was closed in November.
IWA had supported a group of boaters in a test case to establish if British Waterways had the power to charge for end of garden moorings. In July a judge at Birmingham County Court found in BW's favour.
The National Trailboat Rally was held on the River Tone at Taunton. 520 craft and 375 caravans and tents attended IWA National Festival at Wakefield on the Aire & Calder Navigation. This event is still remembered for the mud caused by the wet weather and for the efforts of the Waterway Recovery Group in keeping the site in a usable condition.
This year was celebrated as "Canal 200" to mark two centuries since the height of canal mania in 1793. The Royal Mail issued a set of four stamps designed by Tony Lewery.
IWA launched an appeal for the Aston Nature Reserve on the Montgomery Canal which had to be built before the Aston Locks could be reopened. The Rochdale Canal received a £602,000 Derelict Land Grant from the Department of the Environment to reconstruct part of the canal near Oldham.
IWA National Trail Boat Festival was held at Chelmsford on the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation, where Springfield Lock was re-opened after restoration by IWA's Chelmsford Branch. The National Festival was held at Peterborough on the River Nene where 78,000 people and 487 boats took part. IWA membership was 19,167.
The Bridgwater and Taunton Canal was officially reopened after 20 years of restoration work. The restoration of the Anderton Lift was given the go-ahead with English Heritage granting £500,000 towards the £3 million cost.
David Stevenson retired and was presented with a gift from IWA council by Audrey Smith who took over as IWA Chairman. This was also a year when a declining membership (down to 17,730) prompted a debate about the future role of IWA.
The National Trail Boat Festival was held in May on the Grantham Canal and a National Campaign Festival was held at Pelsall on the Birmingham Canal Navigations. IWA's National Festival was at Waltham Abbey on the River Lee.