Tourism and water conservation solutions

chumbe coral reef responsible tourism

Today, Friday 27th September, is World Tourism Day and the theme is ‘Tourism and Water: protecting our common future’. Water is also one of the key themes at World Responsible Tourism Day 2013. And this week, the five finalists for the Responsible Travel awards for ‘Best for Water Conservation’ were announced.

Looking at the different companies that were shortlisted for this category – held for the first time this year to mark UN Year of Water Co-operation, what is remarkable is what different companies they are, and locations they work in. For all of them tourism and water conservation is about a lot more than the banal card in the bathroom asking guest to use their towels more than once. Rather they show how real responsible tourism is a response to the set of circumstances specific to the community where a business operates.

Nurture Lakeland works with tourism businesses in the the UK’s Lake District region to protect this natural World Heritage Site. One of the campaigns they run is called ‘Love our Lakes‘. Nurture Lakeland works with local business, residents and visitors to improve water quality in Lake Windermere and the surrounding catchment lakes by reducing blue green algae blooms.

Tourism and water… from wine

spier wastewater responsible tourism
Spier’s approach shows that wastewater solutions can be elegant as well as efficient

On the other side of the planet, South African Spier wine farm and guest accommodation is not only a pioneering member of the Fair Trade Tourism initiative and producer of fantastic wines near Cape Town. It recycles 100% of its wastewater, which it then treats in an environmentally friendly manner, so that the clean water irrigates the garden and grounds. Considering that Tourism Concern states that in Goa: “one five-star hotel consumes as much water as an entire village over the course of a whole month“, measures of this level can have a real impact on surrounding communities as well as a lodge’s own footprint.

Over in Malaysia, another one of the nominees, spa resort Frangipani Langkawi has constructed a water treatment plant to recycle the resort’s waste water, which is then used to water the tropical gardens. They even go to the extent of  harvesting water from air-conditioners, which during the peak season can be up to 1000 litres are recovered a day.

Meanwhile in Zanzibar, Chumbe Island Coral Park private nature reserve not only protects a pristine coral island with a fully protected coral reef sanctuary – the ecolodge it runs there employs a host of technologies and solutions ranging rom rainwater catchment and solar water heating to composting toilets and grey water filtration minimising any negative impacts on this fragile environment.

chepu ecolodge patagonia
Chepu get its water through harvesting alone

Also nominated was Chepu Adventures, an ecolodge in Patagonia that is a member of the Green Globe certification scheme. The off-grid lodge is 100% self-sustainable, with all its water coming from rainwater recovery and filtration. it achieves this using solar water heaters, rain-collectors on its roof, and storing water in a well and large water tanks. over the course of a year the lodge collects rainwater in a 16,000 litre well and to two 5,000 litre tanks, which then supplies its guests – who use on average 80-100 litres a day. To put this into context of global tourism and water issues, consider that Unesco has estimated that in dry regions like the Mediterranean, holidaymakers can go through up to 440 litres a day, double the consumption of the average Spanish urban resident.

The winner of this award, along with all the other categories, will be revealed on Wednesday 06 November during World Responsible Tourism Day, at 11:30. However, with water use worldwide predicted to grow by 50 percent by 2025 in developing countries, and 18 per cent in developed countries, tourism and water use is not an issue for one day, or even a year, but one that every travel business – indeed every business – will need to take seriously from now on.

 Do you know or run a tourism business who is really making great strides when it comes to water conservation? Let us know what you are doing on Twitter or Facebook, or tell us about it, or any other issue related to water, in the comments below.

Tagged , , .

Jeremy Smith is a writer, speaker and sustainable tourism consultant. He is co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, an initiative that supports tourism organisations in declaring a climate emergency and working together to reduce their carbon emissions in line with the Science Based Targets. He is the author of Transforming Travel - realising the potential of sustainable tourism (2018), and co-founder of, the travel industry sustainable tourism website news site. He consults widely on sustainable tourism strategy and communication, with recent clients including Bruges Ommeland, GSTC, English National Parks, Tripadvisor, the Travel Foundation, and the European Travel Commission. He is a member of Travalyst’s Independent Advisory Board and was a member of Rotterdam’s International Advisory Board in 2019, helping develop a new vision for the city’s tourism.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *