Kate Simon: It's time to make a splash about the abuse of water

Travel View

Is water set to become the next big issue for travellers?

The campaign group Tourism Concern thinks so. It has turned its attention to the problems faced by communities whose water rights are under threat from the local tourist industry. The result is the launch of a new initiative, the Water Equity in Tourism campaign (WET).

"Tourism is a thirsty, rapidly expanding sector, which is placing unprecedented pressure on water resources in places where it is already scarce due to climate change, lack of infrastructure and weak governance," says the organisation's campaigns manager, Rachel Noble. "While the poorest and most vulnerable often go without, next door tourists are free to enjoy swimming pools and golf."

Tourism Concern claims water supplies are too often being diverted from local domestic and agricultural needs, overuse of aquifers and reservoirs, and contamination of fresh water and waterways. Its case studies include Zanzibar, where it says tourists typically consume 15 times more water per day than local residents. And in the emerging holiday destination of Costa Rica, the organisation points to the mass demonstrations that took place in one town to try to prevent plans for an $8m (£5m) pipeline that would take water from the local aquifer to coastal resorts.

Tourist arrivals are expected to exceed 1.6 billion by 2020, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), which also predicts that the number of people living in places where water is scarce could rocket from the current three billion to seven billion in less than 20 years. No wonder water rather than oil is predicted as a cause of future wars.

What is the industry doing so far? We've all seen the little card in the hotel bathroom asking guests to desist from requiring the over-laundering of towels in order to conserve water. And any forward-thinking travel company knows it must have a sustainable tourism policy in place.

But are too many businesses really doing very little on the ground? For example, Tourism Concern claims too many water-saving initiatives from the travel industry focus on reducing consumption within their hotel resorts. It wants a wider approach taken that looks at fairer distribution and the water needs of local communities to take precedent.

The WET campaign is to be commended for challenging industry and governments on this issue – water needs a much higher profile in the green tourism debate. (This and other issues will be up for debate at the Ethical Tourism Masterclass being organised by Tourism Concern next Saturday – see tourismconcern.org.uk.)

But will there be any real appetite from governments or the profit-inspired companies themselves to make such fundamental changes to what is one of the world's biggest industries and on which so many countries now rely for their economic survival?

Got a travel issue? Email sunday travel@independent.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower