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Water Conservation and Drought Issues in Resorts Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 26th, 2020


Water conservation and drought issues are inevitable in some resorts. The primary reason refers to the fact that demand for fresh water increases with the growth of population and urbanization while supply decreases. The tourism industry is closely connected with water issues due to several reasons. First, most resorts are situated near large rivers and sources of fresh water. Their operation is often dependent on the natural resources of water. Second, the inappropriate water management leads to pollution. Finally, tourism depends on the availability of sources. Several cases exemplify instances when resorts’ activity has been damaged by severe droughts. In the following paper, the water conservation and drought issues in resorts will be investigated and evaluated. Theoretical background on ecotourism and water conservation and real life examples have been used for the paper.


Weather conditions and climate changes affect tourism industry drastically. The availability of water is crucial for particular types of tourism. The primary reason for this is global. The scarcity of water resources is terrifying. Also, the ability to save natural resources increases the potential competitiveness in the sphere. Although the implementation of the proper water management is a time-consuming process, it is of primary significance for the future development of tourism as far as most resorts face problems with water consumption.

Background and History

The idea of the conservation of natural resources and water, in particular, became popular in the previous century. It was the time when the notion of ecotourism appeared. Before providing specific examples, it is necessary to examine reasons that predetermined the development of ecotourism.

According to Ballantyne and Packer (2013), natural resources have always served as a major attraction for people. The understanding of the need for nature protection commenced in the 1960s. In those years, people became aware of such issues as environmental protection, pollution, extinction of animals, and scarcity of resources. The mass tourism became popular in the same period. As far as tourism was always based on natural resources, the questions about nature protection became urgent. Consequently, the International Union of Official Travel Organizations has introduced the environmental tourism policy. In 1972, the Ecodevelopment Strategy was initiated at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment.

The other reason for changes in tourism is connected with expectations about water availability. The demand for water increases annually while supply decreases. By 2015, the demand for water is expected to rise by 55% (Gossling, Hall, & Scott, 2015). Gossling et al. (2015) also write, “as a result of increased water demand over the coming decades, UN Water (2014) estimate that as much as 40% of the global population may live in areas of severe water stress by 2050, as aquifers are overexploited and groundwater supplies decline” (p. 15).

Finally, numerous examples prove the necessity to conserve water and find solutions for dealing with droughts. For instance, the State of Colorado experienced a severe season of spring and summer droughts. Conditions in wildlife became dangerous, and the number of visitors decreased by 40%. Also, drought influenced the fishing industry. Fishing was prohibited as far as fish species were in poor condition due to the low level of water (Scott, Hall, & Gossling, 2012).

Literature Review

The investigation of environmental issues and their relation to tourism should start from the identification of tourism-environment relations. According to Holden (2012), it is rather a challenge to evaluate relationships between tourism and environment. Tourism is a system that includes a variety of aspects such as stakeholders, the private sector, government, non-governmental organizations, and tourists. In general, tourism-nature relationships define the human attitude towards the environment.

As human activity, tourism may influence environment differently. Holden (2012) examines the positive and negative impact of tourism on nature. Adverse effects of tourism may be viewed at two levels: global and local. On the global scale, scholars argue that tourism facilities, such as airplanes, negatively influence environment. The primary concern refers to the emission to carbon dioxide. Although air companies claim that the level of emission from airplanes is much lower in comparison to other activities, the threat exists. One may assume that there is no connection between air pollution and water conservation in resorts. On the contrary, there is a direct connection.

The emission of carbon dioxide enhances the greenhouse effect. It leads to the changes in climate, and that, in its turn, modifies water demand and supply in the world. The other global issue concerns water pollution. This problem is typical of many resorts in the world. Holden (2012) writes that “in the most visited tourist area of the world, the Mediterranean, only 30 percent of over 700 towns and cities on the coastline treat sewage before discharging it into the sea” (p. 20).

Tourism may also affect the natural environment on the local level. In most cases, it deals with the destruction of local habitats for the development of tourism business. The treatment of coral reefs may serve as the first example. The diversity of species on coral reefs can be compared to that of the rain forests. The building of new tourism facilities often destroys reefs. For example, the inadequate system of sewage and rubbish discharging as well as the building of new tourism constructions undermine the security of almost seventy percent of all coral reefs at the coast in Egypt (Holden, 2012). The other local threat refers to the individual treatment of tourists. Most of them do not realize the significance of coral reefs from the environmental perspective. Even if they do, they just neglect it. Consequently, tourists or divers may break reef to get a souvenir or walk on it. Such damage is devastating for coral reefs.

Nevertheless, tourism has positive effects on the environment as well. Holden (2012) expresses the idea that tourism should be regarded as an agent of conservation. In comparison to other types of human activity such as forestry or agriculture (that require the modification of soil and destroying of habitat), tourism aims at the maximum protection of the environment. Its success depends on the preservation of nature. Thus, such terms as ecotourism, nature tourism, responsible or sustainable tourism are becoming more and more popular nowadays.

According to Buckley (2013), the concept of ecotourism remains rather controversial until nowadays. There is no exact definition of ecotourism although there are several principles that can be met in most definitions. The first opinion is that ecotourism is a sub-type of tourism. The second component of ecotourism refers to the notion of the environmental management. This kind of management is often used together with the term “sustainability”.

Another view concerning ecotourism relates to the fact that it is nature-based. Thus, ecotourism may be realized only in natural settings. The next constituent of the definition is about education. Ecotourism should educate travelers to use water appropriately, for instance. The following aspect of ecotourism is conservation of resources. It is essential for the creation of harmonic relations with nature. Some scholars also consider that ecotourism brings social benefits, especially to residents. As a result, people live in safe places and do not worry about the deterioration of their health conditions (Buckley, 2013). Still, the concept of ecotourism is extremely controversial because it is in the process of development. Nevertheless, water conservation should be regarded as a part of ecotourism as far as it aims at improvement of the environment.

The functionality of almost all tourism facilities depends on the sufficient supply of water. According to Cole (2013), there is little research concerning the relations between water availability and tourism. The lack of adequate research results in improper water management in resorts. One should also differentiate two types of relationships between water and tourism: consumptive and non-consumptive. A non-consumptive type refers to the usage of water for recreational activities. Consumptive relationships occur when there is a need to manage wastes and provide comfortable accommodation.

Scientific investigations of the water consumption and tourism were based either in the Mediterranean region or in Australia — places where tourism comprised a significant part of the infrastructure. Cole (2013) considers that there are several reasons for water inequity in developing countries. The growth of population, rapid deforestation, urbanization create a tension in the tourist sector as well. Besides, water infrastructure has many deficiencies. Water is used to make tourism attractive and comfortable. Consequently, the adequate water management is necessary for the development of business in the pressuring environment.

The primary reason for water conservation refers to the global issue of water scarcity. A demand for water is estimated to exceed supply by forty percent by 2030 (Tuppen, 2013). It means that half of world’s population will be living in places where water scarcity will be an urgent problem. Ninety-seven percent of all water are in oceans. Fresh water comprises only three percent of total water supply. Only one percent of fresh water is in rivers, lakes, atmosphere and underground. The other two percent are in glaciers.

Growing population and urbanization require a lot of water. Climate changes are becoming more and more unpredictable nowadays. According to Gossling et al. (2012), water use tripled in the last fifty years. The term “water stress” is used to describe a condition when people suffer from the water scarcity. In 1995, almost fifty million people faced the problem of water availability. Scientists consider that more than three billion people will live under water stress by 2100 in case the climate change reaches four degrees (Gossling et al., 2012).

These findings prove the need to save water resources and improve water management. As it has been already mentioned, the increasing need for water usage is connected with the growth of population and demands. Agriculture is regarded as the most water consuming activity. Gossling et al. (2012) find that tourism is another significant factor that requires a substantial consumption of water. For instance, tourists need water when using the toilet, taking a shower, going into swimming pools. Fresh water is also necessary for maintaining tourism attractions including landscapes, gardens, and other facilities. Owners of resorts have commercial reasons for water conservation as well. Water comprises up to ten percent of unity bills in most resorts (Tuppen, 2013).

Mei-feng, Jian-chao, and Sheng-he (2014) examined the connection between the tourism industry and water environment. According to their study, three reasons predetermine the significant influence of tourism on the water environment. First, many tourism bases are situated at large water reserves. Second, tourism has adverse effects on the water usage in particular areas. It is necessary to mention that residents of some local areas face problems with water usage due to the extensive development of tourism zones (Mei-feng et al., 2014). Finally, owners of resorts may establish an advanced system of water management, and, in such a way, improve the situation with water pollution in particular areas.

The development of water management plans is of great significance for resorts that are situated in water-stressed regions in the world. Pacific islands are popular tourist attractions. This popularity usually results in the lack of fresh water for the local population. In tropics, the problem of water management in related to season changes in climate. For instance, long-lasting droughts are usually accompanied by increased usage of water reserves. Such treatment is harmful to the environment. Bromberek (2009) emphasizes that all resorts produce water on their own though do not treat it adequately. The author writes about gray and black water.

Gray water comes from bathrooms, sinks, washing machines, and showers while dark water — toilets and dishwashers. In most resorts, these wastes are just discharged into the natural environment without treatment. Discharging of water waste may lead to the pollution of local habitats. Also, resorts may save a lot of water with the help of systems for water management (Bromberek, 2009).

Kuoni Group developed “Kuoni Water Management Manual for Hotels” that can serve as a useful guide for every resort. According to Kuoni Group (n.d.), water management is a prolonged process that comprises of several steps. Considering the usage of innovative technologies for water management is important. Thus, gray water can be used as a renewable source of water. Also, the installation of water-saving technologies such as low-flow showerheads, tap aerators, flow regulators, and flushing volumes can reduce the water consumption substantially. Finally, it is of particular significance to train staff and develop consumers’ understanding of the need. For instance, tourists may be asked to keep taps closed while brushing teeth or use the same pool towel during the day (Kuoni Group, n.d.).

Best Practices in Industry and Solutions

Numerous researchers have discussed the significance of water conservation and drought issues. Nowadays, the status of the discussed subject is of primary importance for water-stressed regions. The following real life examples demonstrate best practices to overcome water consumption issues:

  1. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. This company is one of the most reputable providers of leisure facilities in more than one hundred countries over the world. The consumption of water by Starwood was immense as the company began expanding. As a result, the company realized the need to reduce water usage almost ten years ago. Starwood has an advanced system of water reduction and spares no means on further development of water conservation technologies. The following infographics represents Starwood’s initiative (Our Water Story: Thinking Beyond Conservation, 2015).Thinking beyond conservation
  2. Disneyland Resort in California. California’s climate is known for prolonged periods of drought. During droughts, the whole area faces a challenge of proper water management. Disneyland Resort in Anaheim needs plenty of water for the creation of Disneyland’s wonders. In 2008, the company installed Groundwater Replenishment System for water recycling. This system purifies already used water. Hotels in Resort are equipped with low-flow showerheads and toilets, urinals, and aerators. Various innovative systems control irrigation. For instance, drip irrigation and cut-off valves assist in timely identification of leaks (Water Conservation, n.d.). Authorities of Disneyland Resort also prefer planting drought-tolerant plants that do not need a lot of water for survival. In such a way, Disneyland Resort attracts even more visitors by stating that the park is environmentally friendly.
  3. Boutiquehotel Stadthalle in Vienna. Hotel’s initiatives are considered to be one of the best practices in Europe. Hotel owners became interested in ecotourism since 2000. They acknowledged the need to save energy, water, and enhance sustainability in general. Boutiquehotel Stadthalle received many awards including EU Ecolabel and Austrian Ecolabel. In 2015, the hotel was awarded the Green Hotelier Award in Europe. The primary accomplishment of the hotel is the building of the passive house. The passive house operates on its own energy produced from renewable sources such as solar power and water. Also, visitors decide about the frequency of changing their linens and towels in the hotel. Water from the local well is used for the activation of the passive house (O’Neil, 2015).
  4. Lady Elliot Island in Australia. This resort is located on the southern side of the Great Barrier Reef. The location of resort predetermines the need to implement the effective water management strategies. Thus, the island is isolated from rivers and runoffs. Water around the island is exceptionally clean. A proper wastewater management is necessary in such location. The direct disposal of sewage would result in water pollution. The supply of fresh water is realized via the Dunlop IBC reverse osmosis desalination system. The system converts sea water into fresh water. It should be mentioned, that the resort has a solar power station for this system (Water Conservation, n.d.). Lady Elliot Island promotes environmental awareness of their guests and asks them to control the change of towels and everyday water use.
  5. Pebble Beach Golf Resort in Northern California. Drought in California hindered the activities of numerous resorts. The principal problem of the resort concerned the water discharge system. Thus, a resort discharged all water waste into Camel Bay. Recently, resort invested 67$ million into the project for the reduction of discharge. The proper irrigation system predetermines the popularity of the golf resort. “An irrigation system is based on evapotranspiration rates, soil probing, visual inspection and the weather” (From Disneyland to golf resorts, California tourism adapts to drought, 2015, para. 12).

Resources and Future Implications

The following web sources can be useful for the further research on the subject:

  1. kuoni.com/docs/kuoni_wmp_manual_0_0_4.pdf — it is the link to the Kuoni Water Management Manuals for Hotels. This manual provides a comprehensive description of all necessary steps towards the efficient water management. A visitor may read about every stage of the plan starting from planning and ending with the creation of customer awareness. One can see various tables and graphs that provide useful information.
  2. Greenhotelier.org is the principal online source when it comes to the developing of sustainability in tourist resorts. A visitor may find many useful articles concerning water issues. Besides, there is a rubric describing best ecotourism practices in the world.
  3. Thetravelfoundation.org.uk is the official website of the charity organization that aims at providing best services for people as well as taking care of the environment. One can read about current projects and news relating not only to water conservation and drought issues but tourism industry in general.
  4. Ecotourism.com is one more source that is useful for gathering information concerning a sustainable tourist industry. One can choose the region of interest and find more information about the particular destination.

The topic of water conservation and drought issues is significant as far as it is directly connected to the well-being of the humankind. Tourism is a factor that influences the environment and water reserves drastically. Climate change and inappropriate management may result in little interest among visitors. Ecotourism is a new kind of tourism, and it is the way to future success. People become more environmentally aware. Consequently, they will prefer environmentally friendly resorts. Besides, ecotourism is a good way to save money and protect nature at the same time. Thus, most resorts should consider the idea of implementing water conservation plans for their future development.


The necessity to promote water conservation and address drought issues is proved by real life examples. Global issues such as water scarcity and local pollution of water are exact examples of the negative impact of tourism on the environment. The notion of ecotourism has been introduced to present a new age of ecologically friendly resorts. Nowadays, water management is becoming more and more significant for many resorts. The recycling of water, usage of low-flow showerheads and toilets, and economical irrigation systems are the most popular ways to conserve water and retain functionality during droughts.


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