Much of the world suffers from a shortage of clean water. We can all help by reusing hotel towels, taking shorter showers and turning off the tap!

What the Travel Brochures Show

For many prospective travellers planning their next trip part of their research includes brochures filled with images of glamourous hotels showcasing infinity pools and water abundance with spas and plenty of water sports. The truth is that in popular destinations like Bali, there is a tourism-induced water crisis that is on an enormous scale, and ALL the numbers are frightening.

Tourism contributes toward 80 percent of Bali’s economy and about 85 percent of it is in the hands of non-Balinese investors. It has been quoted that as much as 65 percent of the island’s groundwater is poured into the tourism industry, drying up 260 out of more than 400 Balinese rivers. Groundwater over-extraction has lowered the island’s water table by some 60 percent, risking irreversible saltwater intrusion.

The tourism industry is a substantial tool for socio-economic development for an area or country, representing 10 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), 30 percent of services exports, and providing one out of every 10 jobs globally. As an industry, tourism is interlinked with virtually all other economic sectors, offering ample opportunities for women, youth, rural, and indigenous communities. However, over-consumption of such a scarce and important resource like water by the tourism industry is a huge issue for countries like Indonesia.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) its ‘Tourism for Development’ report released in 2018 states that while the sector accounts for a small share of global water use, tourism can place a great strain on freshwater resources in areas where water scarcity exists – both in developing economies, such as Bali, Indonesia, and in industrialised countries, such as Spain.

“Levels of water use vary considerably between types of facility – from 100 to 2,000 litres per guest, per night. These are often far higher than the quantities of water used by local populations. Water tends to be undervalued relative to its true environmental cost. Water costs are increasing while expectations for more sustainable water use by the tourism sector are growing.

“The EarthCheck Research Institute has reported that large disparities are likely to result from the extensive use of water by accommodation providers – for example in landscaping, pools and other water features within tourism establishments – when compared with very constrained domestic water usage by locals. Such imbalances raise serious concerns about water equity and the ethics surrounding water access,” the report stated.

The EarthCheck Research Institute undertook a water equity analysis to develop a clearer picture of tourism’s water use in relation to domestic water use by local populations. The analysis found that the Philippines, China and Malaysia are at the top of the list in terms of the average amount of water used by each hotel guest per night stay at 981 litres/guest-night, 956 litres/guest-night and 914 litres/guest-night, respectively. The study confirms disparities in water use between tourists in hotels and the local population, typically in the order of a factor of three to eight times.

For example, in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, daily water use by tourists exceeds that of locals by a factor of around five to 6.5.

With expanding populations, increased competing uses, and a growing tourism industry, more and more tourist destinations will be suffering from water stress.

What you can do!

The needs of tourists who are at holiday destinations temporarily should not supersede those of the locals who live there. Tourism is not just about visiting a specific geographical location, it is also about the people, culture and environment – so we urge you next time you travel, to think about the location and reuse your hotel towels, take shorter showers and be sure to turn off the tap!

Sourced from UN