More than two centuries ago, the entrepreneurs of the industrial revolution saw the potential of inland waterways for transporting goods cheaply and efficiently throughout Britain. They developed an inland waterway network linking mines and quarries with factories, mills, markets and deepwater ports.

British Waterways is the organisation responsible for maintaining 2,200 miles (3,540km) of this inland waterway network today so that people can use it for a wide range of leisure activities.

This is British Waterways' website, explaining who we are and what we do. For more detailed information on the waterways themselves, and the many ways you can enjoy them, please visit our leisure website .

British Waterways is a public corporation. We manage and care for more than 2,200 miles (3,540 km) of canals and rivers in England, Scotland and Wales on behalf of the British people.

We will blend best commercial practice with public sector values to earn and increase our income to conserve and enhance the waterways.

As well as being governed by the normal accounting, employment, environmental, planning and safety legislation that affects any modern organisation, we are specifically governed by many of the original canal enabling Acts as well as a number of modern Acts of Parliament.

Our sponsoring government departments are:

  • The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs in England and Wales
  • The Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department in Scotland
    We also liaise closely with:
  • The Department for Economic Development and Transport in Wales
  • Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council (IWAAC)
    IWAAC provides strategic policy advice to us and to government about the waterways generally. It has published several reports on topics such as restoration, social inclusion and planning.

    British Waterways' income comes from three main sources:

    Trading Income
    We focus on business activities that enable us to unlock the full commercial potential of the waterways,and have taken advantage of the growing demand for waterside leisure as well as waterside property.

    Trading income is an important growth area for us as we continue to develop the network's full commercial potential and long-term sustainability. It is mainly comprises income earned from waterway, leisure, property and venture activities.

    Government Grants
    We receive an annual grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for our activities in England and Wales, and the Scottish Executive for our activities in Scotland. We also work very closely with the National Assembly for Wales.

    Our grants recognise the value of the waterways to the millions of people who use them every year for informal recreation, such as walking or jogging. It also reflects their value as part of the land drainage system.

    Everyone who pays taxes is helping to maintain the waterways for the widest possible public benefit.

    Restoration Income
    We receive funding from third party sources including European bodies, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Regional Development Agencies to restore inland waterways. Since the late 1990s this funding has been quite significant, however it does fluctuate according to project activity.

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    Barging on Inland Waterways project: A Barge pulled by a tug Barging on Inland Waterways in Britain
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