In the late 1960s teachers at Eton College outlined plans for a rowing venue with the hope that it would provide safe and calm water for young rowers. It may have taken more than 30 years to break ground, but their idea was finally brought to fruition.

The construction of a man-made lake is no small task, especially when extraordinary precautions must be taken to limit disturbance of the natural wildlife. The wetland area surrounding the lake called for such measures. It is home to numerous mammals and invertebrates as well as 140 bird species and more than 30,000 trees that were planted in the park and arboretum during construction.

In the years leading up to the construction of the rowing course, the site was monitored and controlled. Eton College officials banned the use of fertilisers to ensure clean soil and ground water for the soon-to-be lake. The construction finally began in 1996, reaching completion 10 years later after the removal of hundreds of thousands of tons of soil, gravel and clay.  

Today, water percolates up through underground aquifers and fills the lake with clean, natural water. It is the utmost priority to maintain this water quality.  Barley bales placed on either side of the lake discourage algae growth and visitors are asked not to barbeque to reduce the possibility of chemical run-off into the water.  Litter and recycling bins located throughout the venue encourage proper waste removal.

When Eton Lake was chosen as the rowing and kayaking venue for the London 2012 Olympic Games, further environmental precautions were implemented. These environmentally-sustainable practices were outlined in a framework created by the WWF and the IOC in 2004, called “Toward a One Planet Olympics”. In accordance with this framework, the venue added wind and solar-powered lighting to reduce carbon footprint.  The London 2012 Olympics were arguably the most environmentally-friendly Games in history –and the practices at Eton Dorney certainly contributed to this.

FISA’s alliance with WWF, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, formalised in 2011, actively promotes clean water on the world’s rowing waterways. Eton Dorney’s environmental policies espouse the values held in the alliance and show how rowers can be at the forefront in the fight for clean water. Clean water is important for the sport of rowing and is a vital resource for the planet. The rowing community has a unique opportunity to protect this precious resource.

For more information on FISA strategic alliance with the WWF and how you can make your boathouse cleaner and greener, visit the World Rowing Environment page: