Your holiday plans may involve stealing other people’s water

We have become used to either ourselves or our friends going off on holiday to exotic and usually to places with warm climates. We have come used to being berated for the excessive air travel needed to get to our holiday destination. But an article by Kate Simon (Travel Editor) in yesterday’s Independent on Sunday reminds us that often our destination is a place that is suffering from the problems of climate change and has limited water. As a result Tourism Concern has launched its Water Equity in Tourism campaign (WET).

As described on their site:

‘Tourism is a thirsty business. Peak tourist seasons are generally during the driest months of the year. Tourism development is most intense in coastal areas and on islands, where potable water is typically scarce. Vast amounts of water are needed during the construction phase, as well as once the tourists have started to arrive. However, local communities are normally not allowed to access infrastructure built to ensure safe drinking water for tourists. Tourism also generates significant quantities of waste water, which many destinations in poor countries do not have the infrastructure to process effectively. Often, sewage generated by resorts is dumped in waterways or pumped out to sea.

In many parts of the world, tourism’s demand for water has resulted in:

– Appropriation of water supplies to the detriment of local domestic and agricultural needs
– Overexploitation of aquifers and reservoirs
– Lowering of the groundwater table
– Contamination of freshwater by saltwater intrusion
– Pollution and contamination of waterways
– Conflict between local communities and tourism interests’

Examples of problematic holiday destinations and activities they give on their website include:

Zanzibar: Tourists typically consume 15 times more water than local residents on a daily basis.

Bali: While the Indonesian island’s popular golf courses use 3 million litres of water every day, villagers on some parts of the island reportedly have to walk up to 3km to collect water from a well.

Golf: An estimated 2.5 billion gallons of water are used daily to irrigate the world’s golf courses. This is equivalent to the daily water needs of 80% of the world’s population (World Watch Institute). According to the European Golf Owner Association, the current upsurge in golf development particularly strong in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Greece Italy and Cyprus. All of these countries are extremely water scarce.’

Unfortunately, although we commend the WET campaign for attempting to raise the water problems that tourism brings to countries that are already stretched to supply the basic needs for water to grow crops and supply clean water for their of their own citizens, we have to agree with a point made by Kate Simon. A truly equable solution here may be even more difficult than pushing water uphill. As she says the travel business is one of the world’s biggest industries. Many countries now rely upon it for their economic survival.

Update (15/11/2016): Featured image added from this source.

Roger Ford

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