The independent, non-industry based UK charity Tourism Concern has published a report on tourism and water equity. It sheds a lot of light on the inequalities of water consumption and the enormous water waste caused by hotels and resorts. While many of us have stayed in hotels and serene resorts in exotic destinations, reading the report I wonder, how many of you (myself included) have given our water consumption during the holidays a serious thought?
- Are you aware of how many litres/day of clean water you are consuming when on holiday?
- Did you know that it can be up to 16x the water consumption of the average local household?
- A 5-Star hotel room can account for up to 3,200 litres of water consumption per day!
In addition, many holiday destinations are in water scarce environment. While tourists splash around at the pool, surrounding villages might struggle to meet their daily needs. In Zanzibar, this has led to serious conflicts between hoteliers and local residents over how access to water resources should be handled fairly. It also opens up the question of how to define water equity and how to enforce it?
The report defines the concept of water equity based on the UN Definition of the right to water and sanitation.
“Water equity refers to tourism development that does not infringe upon, or take precedence over, the right to water of communities in destinations for essential personal, domestic and livelihood needs. It implies the duty of states to uphold, fulfil and protect this right, including against abuses or unsustainable consumption by (tourism) businesses.”
This definition points out the “duty of states” to protect this right which in theory works well, but in practice falls short of expectations. Tourists and businesses have an equal responsibility to ensure that their water consumption is responsible and that the community’ right to water is not infringed. The report features different case studies from Zanzibar, Goa, Kerala, the Gambia, and Bali to illustrate different ways in which the tourism sector is affecting the water situation in the global South.
It concludes with a comprehensive list of recommendations for governments, hotels & tour operators, as well as civil society for addressing the issue of water equity. Next time you go on a holiday, ask yourself how the hotel of your choice fares on water equity…