Water Equity in Tourism

water report_edited-1 Tourism Concern has always campaigned to promote and protect the right to water of local communities in the face of increasing competition from the tourism industry. But from 2010-2103 we focused in a major way on this issue. Through our campaigning we brought back into the global spotlight one of the most glaring inequities raised by tourism today. Our report, Water Equity in Tourism, is available to purchase or free to download in the Members Area

Our Water Equity in Tourism (WET) campaign involved:

  • Detailed research into tourism’s impact on water access of local communities
  • A special steering committee comprised of experts from campaigning groups, development agencies, think-tanks and academia to guide and analyse the research. See below for the list of organisations that made up the steering group
  • Awareness-raising with tourists including water-saving tips for holidays and campaign actions
  • Lobbying and advocacy, including promoting dialogues with industry, governments and community stakeholders in a bid to ensure protection for local peoples’ right to water

The WET Steering Group

Our WET programme was supported by a special steering group, the WET-SG. This was composed of a cross-sector of NGOs, think tanks and academics, selected for their relevant expertise in issues related to water, development, human rights and business. The WET-SG  helped to guide the in-country research and analyse the findings. Local groups in destinations were invited to join, in order to promote ownership of the information and to ensure that their perspectives informed conclusions and the development of sustainable solutions.

WET-SG members:

  • ABTA (Destinations Sustainability Programme)
  • End Water Poverty
  • Freshwater Action Network
  • Institute for Human Rights and Business
  • Kabani – the Other Direction
  • Overseas Development Institute
  • Progressio
  • Tearfund
  • Travel Foundation
  • University of West England
  • Water Wise
  • Water Witness International

The WET Principles

The Principles of Water Equity in Tourism which were developed capture the essential points from the recommendations of our resulting report, Water Equity in Tourism – A Human Right, A Global Responsibility. The Principles are underpinned by the notion of water as a human right. They are based on the recognition that there are shared risks to all water and tourism stakeholders if water is not managed equitably and sustainably. These shared risks mean all stakeholders are responsible for working together to address water issues, particularly those in positions of power and with greater access to resources. The full report and recommendations are in our Water Equity in Tourism report, launched at the House of Commons in July 2012 and available to purchase in our Shop.


The right to water and sanitation should not be compromised by tourism
Governments should uphold their international legal obligations to fulfil and protect the right to water and sanitation of citizens as a priority. Governments should issue guidelines to tourism businesses operating locally and overseas on their business responsibility to respect human rights.

Governments should implement clear regulations for sustainable and equitable water and tourism management
Destination governments should implement clear regulatory and institutional frameworks for sustainable, equitable, integrated water and tourism planning and management. Transgressors should be penalised; good practices should be championed.

Land use and tourism planning should be based on assessments of water resources
Land use planning should be based on assessments of water resources and infrastructure, and tourism carrying capacities established. These should take into account livelihood needs, food security, population growth, climate change, and wider watershed degradation.


Tourism businesses should implement their business responsibility to respect the right to water
Tourism businesses should move beyond technical approaches and implement their business responsibility to respect the right to water and sanitation in their activities and supply chains. More about the business responsibility to respect.

Tourism businesses should abide by the law
Tourism businesses should adhere to national regulations governing water use and waste management, even where these are poorly enforced. This includes paying for what they consume.

Tourism businesses should reduce their water consumption
Tourism businesses should work towards reducing their water consumption and contributing to water conservation by making use of existing industry guidelines.


Land use, tourism and water planning should be undertaken participatively
Land use, tourism and water planning should be undertaken transparently and participatively, with adequate community representation, particularly of women.

Governments and tourism businesses should be accountable to local communities
This includes providing access to redress where water rights have been adversely impacted.

Cooperation to further water equity should be pursued by all stakeholders
Cooperation and collaboration should be pursued by government, international donors, tourism and
civil society stakeholders in resourcing and undertaking data collection, improvements to community
water access, advocacy, capacity-building, technology transfer, and tourist sensitisation
Drawing on the findings of new report, Water Equity in Tourism – A Human Right, A Global Responsibility, Tourism Concern offers the following recommendations for government, industry and civil society stakeholders in order to encourage and support them to:

Address the current water inequities in tourism development
Promote and protect the right to water and sanitation of local communities
Maximise tourism’s contribution to poverty alleviation
Ensure wider socially, environmentally and economically sustainable development in destinations

About the author

Leave a Reply