Can you pour urine into a canal?

In a word, no!

Let’s expand on this a little bit. The context here is for people in the UK who have a urine-diverting waterless/compost toilet on a narrowboat or wide-beam, and therefore will need to regularly empty the urine container. In the UK, regulations prohibit the discharge of urine into the canal network. The CRT (Canals and Rivers Trust) have expanded this prohibition to cover many rivers too, with more areas planned.

The reason behind this is that canals in particular, are slow flowing and prone to nutrient build up, which in turn can lead to algal blooms and other issues. These blooms can be a health risk to animals (including humans) and aquatic life, leading to oxygen starvation and a substantial (negative) alteration to the ecological makeup of canals, which needs to be avoided.

Regardless of what you may have been told in the past, you can no longer discharge urine into the canal.

You might suggest that ‘just a little’ won’t hurt anything, but that just doesn’t justify doing it – you are not ‘special’ or exempt. Keeping the waterways clean and safe is a collective effort that requires people to act in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

Photo by Pixabay on

So where can you empty urine? As we’ve discussed above, never in the canal and not on the towpath either. Most people will empty it at elsan points on the canal network, or around trees and bushes, away from the canal. Provided you vary the discharge point, the trees and plants will benefit from the nutrients and you won’t run the risk of salt burn/build-up.

Technically, you should either own the land, or have permission from the landowner to do this, but done in a responsible manner, shouldn’t cause any nuisance or problems.

Find out more about the CRT’s position on compost toilets on their website. Their latest updates cover their new position (February 2021 onwards) on no longer being able to ‘bag and bin’ solids.

We will cover the ways to compost ‘on the go’ in the future – our own feelings are that ‘bagging and binning’ is not an environmentally responsible way and should only ever have been an emergency option and not the default option for compost toilet users. Remember that small waterless or compost toilets should be viewed as part of a composting system that should encompass the composting element too!

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