How rowing is protecting the very thing it is reliant on – clean water

Sunday, 09 December 2012
By Mike Rowbottom

rowing clean waterThe pristine mountain water lake in Bled, Slovenia, features centrally in a video highlighting a new environmental section on the World Rowing website.

The "Clean Water Video", produced jointly by World Rowing and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), was filmed during last year's World Championships at Bled and is designed to send a clear – indeed, crystal clear – message on how all rowers are responsible for safeguarding their rowing environment and how the sport of rowing is reliant on clean water.

FISA – the World Rowing Federation – and WWF have been partners for the promotion of Clean Water since the spring of 2011.

The aim of this strategic alliance is to educate rowers and fans about the importance of the sport to the global environment.

The alliance is also about establishing new best practices in sustainable sports event management and making environmental impact a more significant criterion in the event-bidding process.

Denis Oswald 091212Denis Oswald believes the partnership with WWF will help raise global awareness for the need to preserve clean water

Speaking on behalf of World Rowing, FISA President Denis Oswald said: "Rowers have an intimate and intense relationship with water.

"Naturally, they are interested in ensuring that the water bodies on which they row are protected and maintained, not just for their own use, but for the many other groups and communities who also rely upon it.

"This new Clean Water video illustrates our relationship with water and, our new environmental web section features a "Call for Action" to all those in the rowing world who want to improve the aquatic habitat on which they conduct their sport.

"We are convinced that this strategic alliance with WWF International is the most effective way that we can help raise global awareness for the need to preserve this most precious resource."

Stuart Orr, freshwater manager at WWF International, added: "The rivers and the lakes where competitions are held are an integral part of much larger, often threatened, ecosystems.

"To be able to work in an innovative way with FISA allows us to be able to reach new key audiences who can help us to deliver on our conservation goals."

fisu wwfThe new web section shows how all rowers are responsible for safeguarding their rowing environment

WWF is the world's largest and most respected independent nature conservation organisation, with more than five million supporters and a network active in more than 100 countries across all continents. One of the main priorities of WWF is to protect freshwater ecosystems and improve water access, efficiency, and allocation for people and the environment, which is why our partnership is a perfect fit in promoting clean water.

The new web section includes links to articles about clean water and rowing, as well as environmental tips for rowers and boathouses.

It also gives rowing clubs the opportunity to share their story on how they have positively impacted their rowing environment.

Links to World Rowing publications including the updated Environmental Sustainability Guidelines Policy and other guidelines are provided.

And there are suggestions as to how rowers can become an active part of the "Clean Water Movement".

FISA's commitment to rowing practices that help protect the environment led to the establishment in 2001 of the FISA Environmental Working Group and, a decade later, a strategic alliance with the WWF for the promotion of clean water.

green boathouseRowers are given tips on how to create a green boathouse

Rowers going to the site will find ten prominent tips to sustain a healthy environment and promote a "greener" boathouse. They are:
  • Get involved in regular clean-ups and encourage other groups on the river to do likewise.
  • Make sure you have a reusable water bottle in the boat which can be securely stored so there is no danger of it falling overboard and becoming floating rubbish.
  • Be careful not to leave hoses running at the clubhouse.
  • Keep the engines on the coaching boat in good condition – they will run more efficiently and be less polluting.
  • Recycle as much as you can – e.g. use old towels rather than buying new cloths to use as rags for cleaning.
  • Check that the boathouse light bulbs are energy efficient – and last one out should always check the lights are turned off.
  • When washing rowing kit at the boathouse, hang out to dry rather than using tumbler dryer.
  • Cycle or jog to the boathouse when possible – a good warm up. If further away – consider car-pooling.

ergo machinesThe site recommends looking into the possibility of hooking up ergo machines so energy put in can be stored for power usage

The final tip is more by way of being a fantasy  – namely to look into the possibility of hooking up ergo machines (indoor rowing machines) so all the energy put in can be stored for power usage. Apparently, Columbia University and Drexel University have already conducted initial research into this idea.

The site also offers the opportunity for features on clubs which have advanced the cause of improving their environment, and the first such item, submitted by Martin Erin, concerns what is described as the "Marking of a new era in Passaic River history" and tells the story of how an abandoned boat yard in New Jersey, USA has become a premier rowing venue and a model for environmental restoration.

"On what was once the site of an abandoned boat yard, Nereid Boat Club rowers, with the support of state, local and private donors, now marks the completion of the first-ever restoration project on the banks of the Passaic River in Rutherford New Jersey.

"We are witnessing the resurgence of the river as a natural and recreational asset," said Peter Willcox, Nereid's President and project architect, "and rowers are helping lead the way'."

"The restoration project, believed to be the first of its kind on the Passaic, included replacement of a rotting, wooden bulkhead with a sloped shoreline replanted with native vegetation. Other improvements included the construction of a public park with a launch for canoes and kayaks, new dock facilities, a gravel parking area, landscaping, benches, and upgraded storm water management facilities with a bio-retention area for water quality.

"Bob Martin, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Rutherford Mayor Joseph DeSalvo and federal, state and local officials joined club members for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening this summer.

"Several years in the making, this project owes its success to a unique partnership of state, local and regional authorities. Along with support from the Borough of Rutherford, financial contributions and implementation guidance came from the DEP's Green Acres Programme, and the Department of Transportation's I BOAT NJ initiative. Early guidance and support was provided by the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Office of the National Park Service. The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission provided tens of thousands of dollars of in-kind construction services. Nereid members made substantial financial and in-kind donations, including hundreds of hours of volunteer labour. In addition, the Lower Passaic Cooperating Parties, a group of 70 companies working toward a cleaner river, provided a grant.

Nereid Boat Club1The once abandoned Nereid Boat Club has become a model for environmental restoration

"Nereid, a not-for-profit club founded in 1868, had various homes along the Passaic River until 1962, when an arson fire destroyed its Bellville boat house. In the early 1990s a new generation of rowers breathed life into the defunct club and identified the current site in Rutherford. Through an agreement with the borough of Rutherford, Nereid took over the boat private donations, a handful of rowers gutted and renovated the decaying building and opened the revitalised boat club in 1996.

"Today, Nereid is a rowing home to some 150 adults and 200 youth athletes from across northern New Jersey and New York City. Its youth programmes include Montclair High School, one of the most competitive rowing schools in the country. To mark its completion and opening, the club opened to members of the public on June 2, 2012 for National Learn to Row Day. The free event, open to anyone over 14, included an introduction to rowing, brief instruction on a rowing machine, and a spin in a boat."

Elsewhere on the World Rowing environment page there are related news stories concerning items such as the sport's involvement – in the run-up to last year's World Championships in Bled, Slovenia – in the 41st annual Earth Day, which involved the planting of 320 trees – Skorz trees, an endangered species in Slovenia.

Other events staged included the BMW Eco Regatta, involving 32 companies and 32 Eco Schools competing over the World Championship course in Bled.

Esther LofgrenEsther Lofgren has given tips on how to be a green rower

Meanwhile, US Rowing was promoting Earth Day with their own list of tips, compiled by World Champion Esther Lofgren (2010 USA women's eight):
  • Run, bike and walk more – drive less. Try walking or biking for errands; if you live close by, run, bike or walk to work a few days each week. Bike or carpool to practices and carpool to races.
  • Make sure you recycle bottles from water and sports drinks.
  • Use a water filter, and buy multi-serving powdered sports or recovery drinks.
  • Carry water in a reusable aluminium, stainless steel or plastic water bottle.
  • Pick up litter on the water and near the boathouse. If you notice a discarded water bottle floating past your boat, litter on the walk back up from taking down oars or trash in the parking lot – pick it up and recycle or trash it.
  • Encourage your team and boat club to help keep your training routes clean.
  • Support healthy community initiatives that encourage fitness. Last weekend, the United States Women's National Team in Princeton volunteered at the Princeton Family YMCA's youth triathlon.
  • Do only full loads of laundry. Wash with cold water and hang clothes to dry. As a bonus, this laundry tip will help your unisuits and other performance apparel last much longer.
  • Buy locally grown produce. If you have a sunny yard, porch or windowsill, you can also try growing your own vegetables and herbs.
  • Buy more environmentally conscious rowing apparel. Some rowing apparel manufacturers offer recycled or natural-fibre gear.
Rowing around the world has set its course for environmentally friendly activity.



Mike Rowbottom, one of Britain's most talented sportswriters, covered the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics as chief feature writer for insidethegames, having covered the previous five summer Games, and four winter Games, for The Independent. Previously he has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer, the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian.

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