Read the story of how the Canal & River Trust came to be
Work for us
We have vacancies across all of our waterways and in the offices, museums and attractions that support them. We're one of the UK's biggest charities and we take pride in everything we do
If you're thinking of getting in touch then please take a moment to look through these pages as we probably have the answer on our website
Planning & design
All you need to know about planning and design on our canals and rivers
Find a winter mooring
Find a cosy section of canal to hunker down in this winter
10 reasons to take up canoeing
It's a great way to get fit and explore our waterways at the same time
Share the Space
Take a look at our common sense guide to sharing the towpath
Find a place to fish
From reservoirs to club-managed canals and river stretches - find your nearest place to fish
Get your free guide
Download your free guide today and start exploring the waterway nature near you
Download your free guides
You've nine free days out guides to choose from - where will you go first?
Find a walk near you
Are you ready to ramble? Find a waterside stroll or a satisfying hike along our beautiful canals and rivers
Take a look at our upcoming events here.
Find your favourite waterway
With over 95 canals, rivers, reservoirs, docks and navigations, find out more about your favourite waterway
Something for everyone
Help us make a difference and have fun along the way. Find your perfect volunteer role today
Join our team
Could you join your local Towpath Taskforce team and help us to keep our canals looking lovely?
Desmond Family Canoe Trail
If you're aged 16-25 and would like to get involved with this exciting project, please get in touch
Could you be a volunteer lock keeper?
Find out what's involved with this popular volunteering opportunity
Why we think canals are better with Friends
Become a Friend of the Canal & River Trust today and you’ll open yourself up to new experiences and endless opportunities.
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
'Pump out or cassette' is one of the perennial debates amongst boaters, with most of us having strong feelings in one direction or other. Whatever we use - pump-out, cassette or composting - we all need to dispose of our toilet waste responsibly and without harm to the environment.
Cassette toilet users, a.k.a 'bucket and chuck-it' fans, will need to dispose of the contents of their cassette using an Elsan sanitary facility. The waste holding tanks or 'cassettes' vary in size but they are generally easily portable making them a convenient choice for many liveaboard boaters. They are ideal for when a boat is iced in during the winter and unable to cruise.
We provide around 220 sanitary facilities across our network, with many more provided by third parties such as marinas and boat yards. Using them requires more care than using a standard mains-plumbed sewage system. Sadly these facilities are frequently abused by people throwing inappropriate items into them, from nappies to black bags of domestic waste, used engine oil and more. The result is a blocked, revolting mess that not only poses a pollution threat to the environment but can cost us up to £6,000 a time to sort out.
Boaters who have a holding tank for toilet waste will need to use a pump out facility to empty the tank. Once again we provide some facilities, as do many marinas and boat yards. There is a charge for using pump-out facilities, it’s not included in the boat licence fee.
Many of our facilities don’t drain into the main sewage system so it’s a constant job for us to service all these septic tanks. What you must never do is use a free-standing pump to pump out your tank into an Elsan disposal point – these simply don’t have the capacity and there’s a high risk of the waste backing up and overflowing. Pollution of the canalside with raw sewage would be a very serious offence as well as a health hazard.
Composting toilets are increasing in popularity, particularly in areas with few facilities or very busy areas that suffer from frequently malfunctioning pump-out machines or Elsan units. Composting can be a great solution. The main thing to consider with compost toilets on boats is having sufficient space to compost solids correctly. Solids can take anything from three months to twelve months to break down into harmless compost. And as anyone who has ever lived on a boat for any length of time will tell you, space is always at a premium. You can never have enough space on a boat!
As the waste from a composting toilet may not have enough time to decompose sufficiently on board the boat before it needs emptying, this waste will still need to be disposed at an Elsan/sanitary station. With the increasing popularity of composting toilets, we are hoping to pilot a facility for solid waste from composting loos as part of the London Mooring Strategy but in the meantime liquids go into the Elsan unit and solids should be bagged in a nappy bag and placed in the domestic waste bins. Please don’t dump liquid and solid waste on the towpath or into the water, knowing that it hasn’t composted properly.
Here’s a few simple dos and don’ts for everyone using onboard toilet facilities. To avoid blockages and problems, no matter what type of toilet system you use, you need to remember just a couple of simple rules.
You can find out more about our boating services and search for non-Trust operated Elsans and pump-outs here.
Whatever type of throne you sit on, please use our waste facilities responsibly, not only to keep them available for your fellow boaters to use but to protect the environment from harm, and allow us to spend precious resources on maintaining the canal, not unblocking the Elsan/sanitary station again, and again, and again.
Please don’t be a loo-ny or urine touble!
Find out what the Canal & River Trust's boating team have been up to.