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Water scarcity is a recognised global problem, with demand for water projected to exceed supply by 40% by 2030. By the same year, half the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress.
The hotel industry is part of a rapidly growing tourism sector. According to the UNWTO, growth in international tourism will reach 1.6 billion trips in 2020. There is disproportionate hotel growth in coastal and island destinations, where arguably water scarcity and water equity issues are most pressing. An increased demand for high-end tourism accelerates water demand of new hotels and resorts.
The International Tourism Partnership is currently running a working group on water, with the objective: To produce a risk analysis of key water issues - present and forecast - of water availability and quality, along with an assessment of any cost and regulatory implications, in selected geographic regions, in order to increase awareness and understanding of how and where water issues present a significant risk to the industry’s future.
Hotel companies have both a strong commercial and moral imperative for addressing water use. Cost is a clear factor: water accounts for 10% of utility bills in many hotels. Most hotels pay for the water they consume twice – first by purchasing fresh water and then by disposing of it as waste water. According to the UK’s Environment Agency, depending on their water efficiency, hotels can reduce the amount of water consumed per guest per night by up to 50% compared with establishments with poor performance in water consumption. The moral reasons are equally compelling: water is a scare resource in many resorts around the world so hotels have a responsibility not to use more than necessary; in rural or remote areas it ensures that local residents are not deprived of their essential supply; and by reducing the amount of wastewater that needs to be treated, this lessens the risk of water pollution.
Besides from hotels, numerous organisations are calling for global co-operation to prevent a large scale water crisis. This infographic from Visual.ly is a nice reminder of some of the stats involved and examines how the world can better cooperate around this vital cause: