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The crisis of water: More required from tourist sector

20 March 2014

The crisis of water: More required from tourist sector

Water is currently undervalued in terms of its global importance, but could become the most contested natural resource of the future; especially when considering its complex relationship with energy production.

That was just one of the themes raised at a research consortium in Hong Kong supported by EarthCheck Research Institute, Ecolab and Griffith University, and timed to coincide with UN World Water Day on 22 March 2014.

As water is used to produce energy, so energy is required to produce water. This link means water management needs to become a priority, and the consortium’s second white paper on water management calls on the tourism sector – a heavy user of water – to do more, and fast.

Addressing more than 50 tourism industry professionals at the gathering, Lincoln University’s Adjunct Associate Professor, Susanne Becken, noted that the quality of available water is diminishing, while the demands on volume and associated costs are increasing.

“Tourism in the Asia Pacific region is growing at five percent per annum. At the same time, more than 75 percent of the countries are experiencing water stress at least at some critical period throughout the year,” she said.

“Layer into this the inequity of water use by large hotels, where the consumption of water by guests can outpace that of the local population by up to eight times, and the potential for conflict becomes a significant new business risk.”

EarthCheck, which monitors the operational performance of hotels, surveyed 181 hotels around the world last year and found that water consumption varied considerably; ranging from 200 litres per day in Europe to more than 900 litres per day in the Philippines, Malaysia and China.

Lincoln University Professor of Tourism, and EarthCheck Research Institute Chairman, David Simmons, notes that the tourism sector needs to make swift changes in water management to meet the new and looming risks; including introducing responsible design and operational practices before hotel developments are approved.

“Developers have to look beyond the box that they are building and see if it fits in with the existing environment,” he said. “If we destabilise destinations by developing a ‘giant box’ in the middle of a village – one that soaks up precious resources for the rare few – then we are bound to face issues.”

Professor Simmons stresses that New Zealand is not exempt from these considerations: “The notable demand for water resources from the primary sector next to the requirements of the tourism industry means that water management is as important as ever. As such, the hospitality sectors will increasingly need to be able to account for their water usage while at the same time meeting the expectations of their clients.”

About the EarthCheck Research Institute
The EarthCheck Research Institute (ERI) is a not-for-profit company whose goal is to be a leading international centre for scientific excellence in sustainable tourism. The institute focuses on scientific research, education and capacity building to solve real-world challenges. The role of the ERI is to provide advice on the key sustainability and climate change issues now facing the world’s travel and tourism industry and to provide advice and assistance to industry on the changing needs of new mandated reporting standards for climate change and sustainability. The ERI includes eight international centres of excellence with an established reputation for ground-breaking research. For more information, visit

About Ecolab
A trusted partner at more than one million customer locations, Ecolab (ECL) is the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources. With 41,000 associates and 2012 sales of $12 billion, Ecolab delivers comprehensive solutions and on-site service to ensure safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use and improve operational efficiencies for customers in the food, healthcare, energy, hospitality and industrial markets in more than 170 countries around the world. For more Ecolab news and information, visit


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