Clean, Drain and Dry

Clean, Drain and Dry


This is a program initiated by provincial and federal officials in direct response to the transfer of invasive species between water bodies, specifically targeting all watercraft.

The issue surrounding invasive species has been ongoing for centuries. We only have to look at the introduction of the English sparrow or Common Starling to North America by the earliest explorers.

Today the list of invasive species runs in the hundreds of creatures and plant life and it is the human influence that has perpetuated this expansion.

The latest target concerns boaters and all water resource users. We started with identification of invasive plant life, recognizing Eurasian milfoil, European Water Chestnut, Fanwort and hundreds of other plants not native to our water and marshes as invasive and now have progressed to fish species and aquatic mussels.

I believe the majority of Canadians do not educate themselves or care enough to really understand the issues. This is why I want to write a little about invasive aquatic species and how we can improve the Clean, Drain and Dry program. But there is one common fault with these programs.

All the money that is spent on publishing information on invasive species needs to be executed at ground level. There is no benefit to recognizing a plant like Purple Loosestrife and not take the time to initiate follow up programs to kill and remove these plants from our environment. The longer we wait, the more they propagate and increase their stranglehold on our marshes and wetlands.

In the case of the Quagga and Zebra Mussel, we have a situation that can no longer be eliminated but the physical range of these creatures must be contained.

The federal and provincial governments knew about these creatures back in 1988 but never alerted the public or started a campaign to contain these invasive species. The information to the public was slow in coming and these creatures got a real jumpstart on many of us.

The Clean, Drain and Dry policy is the government’s response to an out of control situation. But here is the rub-

Once identified as a real threat, many concerned parties tried to develop their own practices to contain these creatures. Some, like irrigation districts are still working piecemeal to control the spread of invasive mussels.

Even the provinces have done only a token amount to curtail the transfer of these species in our water bodies. There are far too few boat check points on the major routes through our provinces and none are manned year round or on a 24-hour basis.

Currently there is no way to monitor watercraft movement throughout the calendar year and follow up compliance legislation enforcing regulations.

In the case of the St. Mary’s Irrigation District in southern Alberta, the management attempted to develop a pre-emptive program and promptly closed access to one of thirteen reservoirs last year. (2017)

This reservoir had an unfettered access road and no control or check points. But this was one reservoir of nine that do not have controlled access gates or RV parks on the same water delivery system.

Closing one of thirteen or one of nine reservoirs did not make any sense and they were called on that knee jerk decision.

During that initial 2017 program, the irrigation district had decided to have the organized RV campground attendants inspect watercraft at their respective boat ramps for invasive species and compliance to the Clean, Drain and Dry program.

I made a point of travelling to the reservoirs with manned access gates and attendants to see how the program was working. And this is where I got a little upset with the program.

The gate attendants were not properly trained nor did they have all the tools necessary to do a comprehensive inspection and decontamination. The attendants had a predisposed list of questions for the boater developed by the irrigation district biologist but never once came out of their gatehouse to get in my boat to inspect for compliance.

And I have to express more thoughts here. The irrigation district placed the onus of compliance on contracted personnel, not direct employees of the irrigation district. They are not young agile people, but people who are in their retirement years. They are not trained in conflict resolution nor are many of them not fit enough to climb in and out of boats all day long. This in my mind was another shortfall in a program that did not fulfill its’ mandate.

We now see all sorts of signage depicting the desire to stop the advancement of invasive species but we lack inspections. This year, 2018, the same irrigation district has attempted to improve on their program.

Now boaters read through a series of statements and sign off promising to abide by all the rules of Clean, Drain and Dry.

 Nowhere is anyone demonstrating what is truly required to follow the program or monitoring compliance. All the boater has to do is show his compliance sticker and they are free to do whatever with no consequences.

There are a few suggestions I want readers to consider, with the thought that we all want the same positive results.

Boaters need to understand their responsibilities, just like those who allow us to use the reservoirs. On that note, I will be putting a video on YouTube on behalf of Sask Landing Fishing Adventures to show boaters the correct way to apply the Clean, Drain and Dry policy.

Here is a tip for the St. Mary’s Irrigation District biologist. This person is in charge of the water resources and part of his mandate will be to protect the farming community from invasive mussels.


  • Boat checks are important going into a reservoir as well as going out. Gate attendants can use large mirrors or hand held units to check the underside of boat trailers.
  • They can take a piece of biodegradable toilet paper and give it to the boat owner and have them swab the live wells and bait wells. If it comes back wet, it will be the boat owner who has to pull to the side and dry his boat properly, be re-inspected or be banned from the water body.
  • Engine checks are never done either. Boaters must be able to drop their motors and outboard legs and prove they have been properly drained.
  • Inboard engine water jackets and radiators all have drain petcocks. Boaters need to get used to opening and draining engine cavities as part of the Clean, Drain and Dry
  • Wake boats are a special concern. They have the ability to compartamentalize water in their hull to achieve certain conditions to use wake boards and knee boards. These compartments are sealed and one cannot see whether they carry residual water or not. These boats should be given special consideration and their own decontamination program every time they enter or depart a water body.
  • This is where the attendants need to be trained and given the tools to make intelligent calls. No of these actions are out of the ordinary and compliance has been legislated. Any watercraft owner who is checked on the highway and does not have a clean dry boat is subject to large fines.

This might be an inconvenience for some, but these are the people we need to educate.  Without training and compliance, no amount of money or advertising will prevent the expansion of invasive species.

In closing, I have been to a number of popular boat launches within the St Mary’s irrigation district and others in the province. I have purposely watched boats leave the lake and noted how many actually implemented the Clean Drain and Dry policy. If the irrigation district or any government official wants to see how ineffective the current program is I will gladly take them around the province to do a survey. It is truly disheartening to see what boaters actually practice and why this program is simply a (cya) on the part of government.


Cover Your Ass