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Sustainable boating on canals and rivers

We want boating on canals and rivers to be more sustainable and – even though the current overall contribution to UK carbon emissions is very small – we want to help reduce emissions on the waterways.

We’re campaigning for:

300 charging points

This is an essential step towards electric propulsion. In the meantime, it would reduce emissions from stoves for heating and engines run for charging batteries.

More dredging

A national dredging programme on the inland waterways would make propulsion of all boats significantly more efficient. It will also improve water quality and management at times of both high and low flow.


Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) is already approved by most, if not all, current diesel engine manufacturers and we are trialling it in engines from manufacturers who are no longer trading. We are conducting trials of HVO in a variety of domestic devices used for heating, cooking and water heating. We are also campaigning for tax cuts to make this almost carbon neutral alternative more affordable.

Further technologies

Future developments will inevitably piggy-back on automotive ones. Work on hydrogen production and distribution is already underway. Before hydrogen becomes available, solid oxide cells powered by propane could cut emissions by about 80% and the use of supercapacitors instead of batteries could eliminate charging losses.

[The photo shows a narrow boat at South Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal  –  by Pete Anderson]

IWA’s Sustainable Boating Group

IWA’s Sustainable Boating Group is a small group of IWA members, experienced boaters, owning a wide range of leisure craft, who are passionate about ensuring that leisure boating is sustainable into the future.   The Group published its Vision Paper in November 2020 and IWA’s Green Boating Guide in 2022. It has contributed a range of articles to inland waterways publications and has given presentations at Crick Boat Show and to other interested parties.  Its work was featured on the BBC’s Countryfile in April 2021.

Publications by the Group, are available in the ‘Downloadable Resources’ section below.

Read about the new IWA/Towpath Talk Sustainable Boating Award.

[The photo shows Ampere, the serial hybrid electric boat owned by Sustainable Boating Group member Malcolm Bridge]

Are you interested in working with the IWA Sustainable Boating Group?

We are a group of inland waterways boaters, with a wide variety of craft types, who are interested in making leisure boating as sustainable as possible in a low or zero carbon world.

We are not only interested in propulsion but also working to make domestic energy usage on boats more sustainable.

If you are interested, please contact Bowman Bradley at [email protected]

Sustainable boating now and in the future


All about biofuels – such as HVO – and why they are the best way to make boating more sustainable now.

Sustainable boating tips

Not sure where to start?  Have a look at our top tips.

Electric boats

Find out about electric boats and more sustainable new-build boats of the future.

Sustainable boating news