Talking Point: Bali’s hotels need to act now to protect their water

Multiple ways hotels can support the Bali water campaign

Multiple ways hotels can support the Bali water campaign

Julien Goalabre of the Bali Water Protection Programme says the paradise island's water resources are rapidly disappearing and hotels need to join in efforts to protect this essential resource.

BALI - 'The Islands of the Gods' is a paradise loved by people worldwide; blessed by a wonderful culture dedicated to arts and spirituality, abundant natural treasures of mountain jungles and rivers, stunning beaches, fertile volcanic soils, and once abundant fresh water.

Nowadays, paradise is under threat. The immense development boom of the last 20+ years - that now caters to over 10.16 Million+ foreign and domestic tourists - has resulted in a dramatic water crisis that is not currently being addressed. With more than 60% of the freshwater used to cater for tourism needs, there is a promising opportunity for hotels to take a leadership stand on the issue by being responsible. This is also a chance to promote such action within the 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

Water tables are drying at an alarming rate

Bali's water tables are drying at a 13% deficit, mostly due to over-extraction. Yet, Bali is one of the few islands in the world blessed by heavy rainfall and theoretically receives enough water from the rainy season to fulfill its present and future needs. Thus, rainwater only needs to be harvested to balance its consumption, and sustain an annual growth in millions of tourists visiting the popular holiday island.

Freshwater pollution

Bali's freshwater pollution is increasing due the illegal trash disposal and excessive use of chemicals for agriculture. Additionally, over extraction of groundwater is leading to saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers, creating irreversible damages.

In Bali, most hotels have linen and towel reuse incentive programmes for guests and grey water recycling for car washing and gardening. Over and above these basics, the road is still long to achieve water sustainability but the list of advice for in-house water savings listed in resources like Green Hotelier can improve such performance. One item was highlighting a philanthropic approaches to water. Indeed: besides the potential for an individual property to educate immediate stakeholders about water issues, many hotels / hotel chains choose to interact and support broader water charity and conservation efforts . 

The Bali Water Protection programme is a project that whilst not directly benefitting hotels in Bali in terms of helping them to save water, nevertheless it would enable them to be part of a project which is tackling water scarcity issues in Bali, and therefore in the longer term they would benefit from a boosted water table .

A solution for the common good called Bali Water Protection

Despite all the threats to Bali's freshwater, the Bali Water Protection Program (BWP) proposes to increase freshwater resilience and good practice throughout the province through 3 sub-programmes:

Aquifer Recharge - 'Adopt A Well'.

BWP will harvest rainwater through 136 recharge wells built on top of water tables ensuring rapid freshwater replenishment. Indeed, artificial infiltration of rainwater into the ground. The island's topography is ideal to facilitate water collection and ensure the island's supply of water for the centuries to come. How wonderful would it be to collect what nature provides to us: helping nature help itself!

Five Elements wellness resort is to date the only hotel supporting BWP: "There are great solutions out there such as the recharge wells and we need to be more aware of it, as if left unchecked the current imbalance will allow saltwater to intrude into coastal wells and leave the many inhabitants of Bali that rely on shallow dug wells without water for a significant part of the year." This comment from Gove DePuy, former Director of Sustainability at Five Elements highlights how important it is for an accommodation provider to support a project that will strongly benefit them in the long term.

Education - 'Adopt A River'

There is nothing more powerful than educating the next generation. While the current one can act now, the future of Bali's rivers heavily depends on what schoolkids will learn. Topics will cover the water cycle itself but also the negative impact of trash and chemicals. Thus, BWP will ensure that the water quality will improve thanks to educational programmes targeting schools located alongside the rivers.

Media campaign - 'Adopt Water'

The population's efforts to save water is also critical, but the awareness of the issue is still limited. Thus, the BWP media campaign will participate in raising general awareness about how precious water is, what the current situation is like, and how important it is to reduce the water consumption through simple actions.

You can read BWP's project summary here, and the programme's full proposal on IDEP's website.

Watch the programme's official video!

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