Boating Behavior: Practices to Assure Clean, Clear Water

Press Release

In August, 2017, the Beacon published an article about safe boating practices.
Information for this article came from the booklet “Help Protect New Hampshire’s Lakes: A Guide to Wise Lake and Watershed Stewardship,” published by NH LAKES – a non-profit organization.   
This article is repeated below with additional updates from NH Lakes’ 2019 revision of the booklet- now called “NH Lakes and You”.  You can contact NH Lakes for a free download of the booklet at: or call them at 226-0299.

Q:  I want to buy a new outboard motor, or replace an old one.  Any advice?

Low-pollution four-cycle and two-cycle direct fuel injection outboard motors reduce toxic air emissions and reduce the release of gasoline into waterways.  Using these cleaner-burning engines will help protect New Hampshire’s air and water quality while reducing fuel costs. Though these engines may cost more upfront, they provide many economic and environmental benefits, since they:

** burn 35 to 50 percent less gas;
** use up to 50 percent less oil;
** reduce air emissions by 75 percent;
** reduce the amount of gas released into water bodies;
** are much quieter.  

Q:  What are some tips for motorboat operation, care and maintenance.

A few simple “rules of the road” to remember and observe:
1.  Operate away from shallow areas.  
Motors can churn up sediment on lake bottoms, which leads to phosphorus being re-suspended in the water, which leads to algal growth and decreased water clarity.  
Motors can also fragment exotic plants, potentially causing new areas of infestation as the fragments spread to other parts of the lake.  
Wildlife may be frightened away from their homes and nests by noisy motors.  

2.  Eliminate unnecessary idling.  It pollutes the air and water, and wasted fuel can be expensive.

3.  Don’t operate within 150 feet of the shore at greater than headway speed, or 6 miles per hour.  Not only is it illegal, but wakes can erode the shoreline and damage wildlife habitat.

4.  Operate away from loons and loon nesting areas.
Many of New Hampshire’s lakes are home to the Common Loon, a threatened species.
Approaching loons in the water or on their nest will stress the animals.
If you see an adult loon on the water, slow down as loon chicks are often difficult to see.

Care and Maintenance
1.  Keep your engine well-tuned, and routinely check for fuel leaks.

2.  Avoid overfilling fuel tanks.  Use a funnel or a spout with an automatic stop device to prevent overfilling the gas tank.  

3.  Avoid pumping any bilge water with an oily sheen. Use absorbent pads in the bilge area that capture or digest oil, and dispose or recycle this material properly.  

Also, wash boat hulls by hand out of the water, using non-toxic and phosphorus-free detergents and cleaning products.  If possible, use natural cleansers such as baking soda or lemon juice. And don’t discharge rinse water into surface waters or storm drains.  

Q:  What about helping to control the spread of invasive or exotic species?

Exotic or invasive plants — species not native to New Hampshire — often proliferate more rapidly than native vegetation, allowing them to take over a waterbody.  Native aquatic plants, on the other hand, are vital to a healthy lake or pond; their growth is regulated by natural controls including predators and other environmental factors.  Exotic species can also be animals. The zebra mussel is an example of an exotic animal.

Other exotic plants are found in more than 70 waterbodies in the state.  Exotic species infestations make recreation in and on the water dangerous and unpleasant, disrupt the ecological balance of lakes, reduce shoreline property values, and are difficult and costly to control.  Exotic species also pose a threat to many native species and valuable wildlife habitats.

You can help prevent exotic species from spreading by:

** always checking your boat, motor, trailer, vehicle, fishing lures, bait buckets and other gear for hitchhiking plants before entering and after leaving any waterbody;

** removing all plants attached to your boat, vehicle or gear.  And don’t throw plant fragments back into the water or leave them where they can wash back into the lake;  

** drying, burning or composting (away from water) unwanted aquarium plants;

** while on a lake, staying away from areas designated as “Restricted Use Areas,”  which may indicate small, contained exotic species infestations;

** observing signs posted by the NH Department of Environmental Services at public boat launches indicating whether the water body has an exotic species infestation.

** encouraging guests or renters to bring their boats, trailers, and gear, cleaned, drained, and dry. Consider providing them with a copy of the “Clean, Drain, and Dry” brochure published by NH LAKES. To obtain free copies, contact us at or (603) 226-0299.

** checking boat launches to see that they have a “Clean, Drain, and Dry” sign. Signs can be obtained from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services at no cost by contacting or (603) 271-2248.

** making sure kiosks at boat launch sites contain aquatic invasive species prevention information. For free posting information, contact NH LAKES at or (603) 226-0299.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) reminds boaters of a new law (HB1589) that went into effect on January 1, 2017 to prevent additional aquatic invasive species infestations. Specifically, the law prohibits any transport of any aquatic plants on recreational gear and related trailers, and goes further to require that boats and other water-containing devices be in the open drain position during transportation. Violators could face fines ranging from $50-$200. This law is being enforced by New Hampshire Marine Patrol, conservation officers and other peace officers.
For more information or to report a potential new infestation, please contact the Exotic Species Program Coordinator at: or 603-271-2248