The Solent is known internationally as a location for sailing and other watersports. In total there’s an estimated 40,000 moorings in the Solent, both afloat and ashore, ranging from full-service marina berths or low-key drying swinging moorings, plus on-shore drystacks for RIBs and other motorboats of up to 30ft length. The biggest concentrations are in the River Hamble and Southampton Water, in the northern part of the area, Portsmouth and Chichester harbours in the east, Cowes on the Isle of Wight and Lymington in the west. More information is available on the the Solent Forum's marine leisure pages.
There is high awareness of the potential impacts of boating on the water environment, especially as a result of campaigns managed by organisations such as the Environment Agency, the Royal Yachting Association and British Marine.
The Green Blue is a joint environmental awareness programme created by the Royal Yachting Association and British Marine, it works closely with Defra, Natural England and the Environment Agency.
The main campaigns it runs are:
The Environment Agency and Natural England hosted a 'Solent boating and water quality workshop’ in June 2019 (view the the workshop outputs). Its aim was to look at ways to change recreational boating behaviour, and improve waste disposal facilities to reduce the risk of pollution from discharges of ‘black water’. It is important to tackle the sources of bacterial contamination as it can put peoples’ health at risk, and effect local communities and the economy, when any one of the Solent's 22 bathing beaches or 18 shellfish harvesting areas are impacted.
The University of Southampton undertook a long-term historical analysis of the impacts of recreational boating on marine surface water quality during a regatta (Cowes Week). Water quality indicators studied included nitrogen concentration, bacterial indicators, and oxygen saturation, at three sampling sites at/near Cowes during 2001–2019. Findings include that sewage discharge from recreational boats is the key contributor to localised faecal contamination of marine surface waters, putting bathers and shellfisheries at risk.
Litter Free Coast and Sea have teamed up with Natural England to develop a 'Love your Harbour' campaign that raises awareness of discharging toilet waste.Its objectives are to:
The release of TBT into the marine environment from antifouling has historically been of concern in the Solent. Changes in antifouling practice means that this has now become a legacy issue, however, levels of TBT are still reported above Threshold Levels, particularly in the upper parts of Southampton Water, suggesting that historical TBT is still present in sediments and slowly leaching into the wider environment. Environment Agency monitoring indicates that there is a declining trend of TBT with contamination limited to hotspots.
In addition, elevated contaminants levels are one of the reasons for unfavourable status of SEMS, this includes copper and other derivatives which have replaced TBT. The Environment Agency report that copper has never caused failures of WFD water bodies within SEMS, and it is not currently undertaking any investigations into copper sources. However, previous work showed that copper concentrations were elevated in the Hamble estuary compared to elsewhere in the SEMS, probably linked to the high density of boats in the Hamble. More recent evidence indicates that copper in the Hamble has declined, suggesting that measures to reduce contamination are working and should be continued.