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It's the Law


PWC operators must obey additional legal requirements that apply specifically to the operation of personal watercraft on Iowa waters.

Requirements Specific to PWCs


Each person on board a personal watercraft must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V life jacket. Inflatable life jackets are not approved for use on PWCs.

PWCs may not be operated between sunset and sunrise.

If the PWC is equipped with a lanyard-type engine cut-off switch, it must be maintained in an operable condition and must be attached to the person, clothing, or life jacket of the operator whenever the PWC is running and in use.

It is illegal to operate a PWC in a careless, reckless, or negligent manner that endangers the life, limb, or property of anyone.

For example, it is illegal to operate:

  • At greater than “slow, no wake speed” in any posted “no wake zone”
  • At greater than 5 miles per hour (mph) within 100 feet of another vessel that is underway at 5 mph or less
  • At greater than 5 mph within 50 feet of another vessel that is underway at greater than 5 mph
  • At greater than 10 mph unless vision is unobstructed for at least 200 feet ahead
  • At greater than 10 mph within 300 feet of shore (except in specially zoned areas) on any inland lake or federal impoundment

It is illegal to chase or harass wildlife with a PWC.

Remember—there are age and boater education restrictions for PWC operators:

  • A person under 12 years of age may operate a PWC only if accompanied on board by a responsible person at least 18 years old and experienced in operating a PWC.
  • A person 12 years of age or older but younger than 18 may operate a PWC only if he or she has completed successfully an approved boater education course or is accompanied on board by a responsible person at least 18 years old and experienced in operating a PWC.