Personal watercraft are small and ride higher in the water than other boats, so they can get into very narrow, shallow spaces. This is particularly helpful for surveyors, search-and-rescue teams and U.S. Homeland Security officials, all of whom use the craft in their work. However, this ability to get into tight spaces can lead to:
- Disturbance of sediment
- Destruction of aquatic habitat and plant life
- Disturbance of or injury to birds, fish and animals
Unlike motorboats, a jet drive has no external propeller to damage coral reefs or injure animals. However, the drive's suction and the force of the jet can still cause damage. Also, if the drive is not flushed thoroughly after every use, "exotic" species, like zebra mussels and invasive plants, can stow away inside the craft. They can then be transported to other bodies of water.
Another environmental concern is pollution. All older models and some newer models of personal watercraft use two-stroke engines, which can vent oil and gasoline into the water with their exhaust. Other motorized boats also use two-stroke engines, but the sheer number of personal watercraft may make their environmental impact greater.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has outlined standards for marine engine emissions and efficiency that take effect in 2006. Virtually all current models of personal watercraft already meet or exceed these standards by incorporating technology such as:
A number of government agencies have taken steps to reduce concerns about noise, safety and pollution. We'll look at these in the next section.