Conflicting Demands on Water Supply
Travel and tourism continues to be one of the world’s largest industries, accounting for almost 10% of global GDP. Reports coming in from all around the world show how water shortage is directly influencing and reshaping the tourist market across continents and how increased water demand in the industry is impacting local communities and natural environments.
With tourism revenue contributing to more than 15% of GDP in most countries, and more than a quarter of GDP in the Maldives and Seychelles, and almost 50% of employment in Macau, the tourism sector is identifying measures to undertake and adapt to the changes occurring globally to water supply. With tourisms spreading uncontrollably in some areas, climate change is significantly shaping the conditions of destinations through more frequent and extreme heat waves, droughts, storms and floods. With warmer and longer summers driving up demand, some places such as some Greek islands are having drinking water transported over long distance by ship; and winter tourism areas such as those in the Alps, are facing shorter seasons thus requiring more artificial snow-making leading to increased energy and water consumption. The methods currently in use are in turn depleting the crucial water supply for the local populations.
Hotels today, especially in much of the developing world, are working under the practice of considering water as unlimited. The hotels are neither properly regulated for their usage, nor monitored by the government, thus allowing the hotel and its guest to not pay for what they consume. In Gambia where tourism directly contributed to almost 20% of GDP in 2011, most hotels were found to have inadequate infrastructure and water meters that were not working. This is turn has led to a rapid rate of consumption and the depletion of fragile underwater reserves that are aggravating poverty and undermining livelihoods and sustainable development. In Bali, tourists were using 16 times more fresh water a day per head than locals, which has contributed to the spread of diseases such as cholera, and wells in neighboring areas becoming saline and unfit for consumption.
Governments are therefore faced with the need to provide and enforce clear regulatory frameworks for tourism and water management. In the face of global climate change and economic cycles that are many times highly correlated to the performance of the tourism sector, a balance must be found in putting the water rights of communities first while also maintaining a certain level of revenue that can aid in alleviating poverty and supporting sustainable development.