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Saving water when boating

There are some simple steps that you can take while you're out boating to use our precious water more efficiently.

Children opening a lock gate

Plan your lockage

When you're approaching a lock, check whether it's set for a boat coming in the opposite direction. If not then it's all yours, but first look whether there's space to share the lock with another boat. An extra boat in a broad lock can save the equivalent of 1,000 bathfuls of water.

Both of these steps will involve waiting, either for a boat to come in the opposite direction or to share the lock with you. Please be patient and see it as a good excuse to have a cup of tea, maybe stretch your legs and have a chat with passing locals.

It's also a good opportunity to talk to other boaters about their plans and to see if there's any scope for sharing locks further on your respective journeys.

Once in a lock make sure the top paddles are properly closed when you are trying to empty the lock and please, please, please double check that gates or paddles have not been left open when you've finished.

Claydon Middle Lock 900x450

Show locks a little love

Locks are built to last and can take most of what we have to throw at them, but it's important to take care when operating them to minimise the potential for leaks.

When entering or leaving a lock, aim for minimal contact by ensuring that both gates are fully open, even if you are a single narrowboat in a broad lock.

By opening just one gate there is a greater chance of damaging the mitre of the other gate. Pushing lock gates open using a boat can damage the gate lining, increasing the likelihood of it leaking. And finally, please close paddles gently. Letting them crash down can damage or break them causing additional leakage.

In many places there will be volunteer lock keepers ready and waiting with a cheery smile to help you through the lock and to give you advice for your onward journey.

Save Water in Locks infographic

Hydro-friendly hygiene

Of course it's not just out on the cut where water is increasingly limited. By taking just a little more care with the water used in sanitary stations we can all help limit water usage.

Don't worry, we're not asking you to share a shower with the chap in the next boat, just that, where possible, you take simple steps such as having shorter showers, turning taps off while brushing your teeth and making sure no taps are left running.

Likewise, keep watch when filling water tanks to make sure that they don't overflow. During a hosepipe ban please only use the water point to fill up your water tank for drinking water and hygiene purposes.

Please do not use the water point to wash your boat with a hose or jet washer. Ask yourself whether you really need to clean your boat or whether it can wait a few weeks.

Man steering boat with flight of locks in the background

Remember to THRIFT

Our THRIFT code makes it easier to remember these simple steps you should follow to help conserve your water usage.


  • Two in a lock? Share locks
  • Help keep it in. Make sure gates and paddles are shut
  • Report any leaks to us
  • Invite oncoming boats through. Don't empty or fill locks if someone else can make use of the water
  • Find another favourite. Explore less busy parts of our network
  • Think ahead. Plan cruises to minimise use of locks

The THRIFT code is now in place across our entire network of canals and rivers.

Can I do anything else to help?

We need all canal users to be vigilant about vandalism, as we have had some huge water wastages through vandalism. Please call the police if you have any concerns or witness vandalism.

Let's keep our canals flowing for everyone to enjoy.

Last Edited: 27 July 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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