Murky Waters

Water Pollution and how you can prevent it

Whether you are a regular visitor to one of the UK’s many inland waterways, a seasoned cross-ocean cruiser, or a once-in-a-blue-moon fair-weather sailor – water pollution is everyone’s problem.

What’s the issue?

Toxins can enter the water via various routes, as regular water users we must try to mitigate the impact that our boating activities have on the surrounding marine life and their habitats. The build-up of harmful chemicals from activities such as blackwater disposal and cleaning product run-off, removes vital oxygen from the local water and can result in significant damage to the area’s marine eco-system. Chemicals that are digested by marine life infiltrate the food chain, gradually accumulating in greater and greater scale as they work their way up.

How can I help?


If you’re spending any length of time on your boat, chances are that you will have toilet facilities on-board, but how do you dispose of that sewage? Blackwater which is simply discharged into nearby waters can adversely impact the marine life below by creating algae blooms.

Wherever possible, try to make use of on-shore toilets and pump-out facilities. If you are having trouble locating a pump out station, you can visit The Green Blue website where you can access the free Marine Environmental Facilities Map. This handy new online resource will locate the nearest harbour/marina with environmental marine facilities, including, pump out stations, recycling facilities, and freshwater refill points.

Various images for InBrief newsletter - Boat cleaning, fuel collar and recycling point

Composting toilets are a great alternative to cut down on waste and chemicals but should always be disposed of at facilities rather than discharging to the water or depositing on land.

Oil and Fuel

Various images for InBrief newsletter - Boat cleaning, fuel collar and recycling point

Prevention is better than cure with water pollution and there are many preventative ways that you can avoid oil and fuel making its way into our oceans and waterways. Firstly, use a fuel collar over fuel nozzles to absorb fuel ‘blow back’ along the fuel line when re-fuelling, this will catch any unwanted drips when moving the fuel nozzle across the deck.

You should also check the engine bilge for oil before pumping and use an absorbent sock to remove oil and fuel in the bilge. You can find filter products by visiting The Green Blue’s online Business Directory. A simple trick is to place a drip tray under the engine, on many waterways this is a requirement. If it starts getting oily, find and mend the leak.

Cleaning Products

Various images for InBrief newsletter - Boat cleaning, fuel collar and recycling point

When you clean either your boat, your dishes, or yourself, the cleaning products involved could easily end up in the water. Products used on boat hulls and decks often contain microplastics, chlorine, ammonia, potassium hydroxide, and solvents, all potentially harmful to the aquatic environment.

It is recommended that whilst cleaning your boat, you avoid using cleaning products altogether and only use fresh water and a good scrubbing brush. This also helps to protect any sealants which can perish and lose colour from using certain detergents.

If you are using cleaning products a top tip is to watch out for products that have ‘polyethelene’ listed in their ingredients list, this means they contain microplastics. These smaller bits of plastic can be readily ingested by wildlife and enter food chains. Instead, try sourcing more eco-friendly alternatives that contain natural ingredients, and are just as effective - The Green Blue’s online Business Directory can help with this.

For more information on water pollution and how to avoid it, visit The Green Blue website: where you can find further guidance and videos. You can also follow The Green Blue on Facebook, Twitter: @TheGreenBlue and Instagram: @the_green_blue.