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 often 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 into 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
- 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.
- Botswana: the first luxury tourist lodge to open in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve boasts a swimming pool for guests and was allowed to drill a borehole to access water. Meanwhile, the government refused to re-open a borehole that was used by the indigenous Bushmen, forcing them to make a 300km round trip or collect water from depressions in the sand. .
- Costa Rica: villagers from the small inland town of Sardinal demonstrated after discovering that a huge US$8 million pipeline was being built to draw water from their local aquifer to supply tourist resorts on the coast. If completed, villagers would have been left without enough water for their basic needs.
- Balearic Islands: water consumption by tourists in July in 1999 was equivalent to 20% of that by the local population in a whole year, representing an increase of some 80% since 199