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Water Consumption

Tourism sustainability is a relative concept. Whether tourism activity in an area is perceived to be sustainable or not depends on the scale at which this is analyzed (see also Chap. 1 in this book). For example, at the global level, tourism contributes only 1 % to water consumption. Even if it grows to 4 % as anticipated, water consumption in the tourism industry is not a cause for concern when analyzed at the global level (Gossling et al. 2012). When we look at the regional level, however, we see that tourism development could cause quite serious problems due to high water consumption in areas that are dry and already water-scarce (Gossling et al. 2012).

Water, especially freshwater, is one of the most critical natural resources. The tourism industry generally overuses water resources for hotels, swimming pools, golf courses, and personal use by tourists. This can result in water shortage and degradation of water supplies, and it can also generate a greater volume of wastewater. In many Mediterranean destinations, tourism is the chief industry consumer. In Alanya (Antalya Province), for example, in 2009, 52 % of the total water consumption was tourism-related (Sabban 2013; Tosun and Caliskan 2011). Tourists also consume significantly more water than the local population. The average consumption of water by a hotel with a swimming pool and a bar is around 489 L per overnight guest, and it may somewhat vary from place to place (Tortella and Tirado 2011). In Mallorca (Spain), the average tourist water consumption is 440 L per day, per guest, which is more than double the average local population demand.1 However, in more upscale establishments, water consumption could be as high as 880 L per day, per guest, due to the fact that people usually consume more water when on vacation than during their everyday life (Tortella and Tirado 2011; Kent et al. 2002; EEA 2001). In Lanzarote (Canary Islands, Spain), tourists consume four times more water than the locals (Medeazza 2004; cited in Gossling et al. 2012). In the poorer, developing countries, this difference could be even more pronounced, with tourists consuming even 15 times more water than the locals (Gossling 2001; cited in Tortella and Tirado 2011: 2569). [1]

In Turkey, hotels consume between 400 and 1000 L of water per guest, per day (Antakyali et al. 2008). Water consumption per guest is higher during low-occupancy seasons (as swimming pools have to be filled, regardless of the number of tourists) and lower during high-occupancy seasons (Antakyali et al. 2008). Hotels in Antalya consume, on average, more than 600 L per guest, per day, while in Antalya city, locals consume only 250 L of water per day, per person, on average (EEA 2001). Unfortunately, it is unlikely for this situation to change in the near future. Water consumption in popular mass tourism destinations is on the rise,[2] due to the construction of new hotels, especially water-hungry four- and five-star hotels,[3] the increasing popularity of all-inclusive establishments,[4] and the construction of new entertainment areas, such as water parks and golf courses.

Golf-centered tourism developments first started in the 1980s, in Mediterranean Europe (Briassoulis 2007). In Turkey, tourism-serving golf courses are a more recent phenomenon; however, in order to be able to compete with other Mediterranean countries over wealthier tourists, their numbers are rapidly increasing (Briassoulis 2007). On average, a golf course occupies between 50 and 150 ha. Since the average water consumption for a golf course was calculated at 10,000-15,000 m[3], a regular golf course’ water consumption could be as high as 1 million m[3] in 1 year, the same as the consumption of a town with 12,000 inhabitants (De Stefano 2004). Many critics have pointed out that these golf courses consume not only water, but also many other scarce resources (land, energy, etc.). They also contribute to environmental degradation through soil and water pollution, as well as to eco-system changes, and enter into competition for the scarce resources with other local economic activities, such as agriculture and forestry. Moreover, golf-centered tourism development contributes to increasing socioeconomic inequalities, as huge tracts of land are reserved for the entertainment of the (non-local) rich at the expense of other uses (agriculture, forestry, etc.) that could benefit the local masses (Briassoulis 2007: 444).

The water problem in the Mediterranean areas is exacerbated by the seasonality of tourism activity (Tortella and Tirado 2011). Tourist high season is in summer, when the amount of precipitation is the lowest. The Mediterranean climate, as we know, is characterized by mild and rainy winters, and hot and dry summers. Moreover, other sectors also require more water during the summer (agriculture for irrigation, domestic consumption by the local population). This could lead to conflicts among different users of water (Tortella and Tirado 2011; Gossling et al. 2012). Finally, there is a clear separation between demand and supply, as the highest demand is on the coast, while the supply is located mainly inland (Kent et al. 2002).

Water consumption is one of the most concerning issues in tourism management (Hadjikakou et al. 2013). The excessive amount of water that has to be pumped from groundwater (some of it illegally, by unregistered users) to satisfy the increasing demand has led to the lowering of water table and the saline infiltration of water resources, particularly in late summers and autumns (Perry 2006; Burak et al. 2004; De Stefano 2004; EEA 2003). As a result, many coastal resorts in Turkey, such as Bodrum, are increasingly faced with water shortage (Hadjikakou et al. 2013). This is very concerning not only for the local population, but also for the tourism industry, because it could limit future tourism developments in the area (Gossling 2006; cited in Hadjikakou et al. 2013). Water shortage could also affect the image of tourism-dependent coastal resorts, and this, in turn, could eventually impact demand (Gossling 2006; cited in Hadjikakou et al. 2013).

Numerous studies have shown that summers in Mediterranean Europe will become hotter in future, with spring and autumn becoming more attractive (Amelung and Viner 2006). Climate change in the Mediterranean basin will bring along an increase in the intensity of heat waves, will prolong droughts, and will cause more fires, which will most certainly affect tourism in the region (Perry 2006). This could lead to endemic water scarcity, which could increase frictions between the local people, tourism authorities, and businesses on the use of water (Perry 2006: 369). Particularly, water-hungry tourism projects, such as water parks and golf courses, as well as luxury hotels, will be the subject of popular anger (Perry 2006; Tortella and Tirado 2011). Water may have to be transported from longer distances, which will highly increase the cost of this resource and could extend water conflicts to a larger area. Climate change will most likely cause important spatial and temporal tourism development changes in the region, which will eventually impact the sustainability of tourism development (Amelung and Viner 2006). Some believe that this impact will most likely be negative, from an economic and social standpoint, and positive, from a resource and environmental protection and preservation perspective (Amelung and Viner 2006). Others, however, argued that, due to climate change, tourism projects in the Mediterranean will become less sustainable not only from an economic perspective, but also from an environmental point of view (Perry 2006).

Given this gloomy perspective, management of water resources has become crucial. In the past, this relied mainly on increasing water supplies. Today, conservation of water resources and integrated water resources management have become more important (Tortella and Tirado 2011: 2570; Gossling et al. 2012). Water management strategies may include water-saving programs, pricing policies, water markets, water recycling and reuse, as well as more efficient use and allocation of water. Unfortunately, many hotel managers in Turkey lack the necessary knowledge and the interest in the measures needed to protect and conserve environmental resources (water, energy, etc.) (Erdogan and Baris 2007).

  • [1] Average water consumption is 140 L per person, per day, in rural areas and 250 L in urban areas(EEA 2001).
  • [2] Total water consumption by the tourism industry in Alanya has increased from 4.6 billion liters in2002 to 6.1 billion liters in 2008 (Tosun and Caliskan 2011).
  • [3] Water consumption per guest, per day, in a five-star hotel is at least double compared to that in atwo-star hotel. The share of five-star hotels in total water consumption of the tourism industry inAlanya is 34 %, and the share of four-star hotels is 11 % (Tosun and Caliskan 2011).
  • [4] Besides the direct use of water in tourism, the indirect use of water is also very important—forexample, for the preparation of food; with the increased preference for all-inclusive, this is projected to increase (Hadjikakou et al. 2013; Tortella and Tirado 2011).
  • [5] Water consumption per guest, per day, in a five-star hotel is at least double compared to that in atwo-star hotel. The share of five-star hotels in total water consumption of the tourism industry inAlanya is 34 %, and the share of four-star hotels is 11 % (Tosun and Caliskan 2011).
  • [6] Water consumption per guest, per day, in a five-star hotel is at least double compared to that in atwo-star hotel. The share of five-star hotels in total water consumption of the tourism industry inAlanya is 34 %, and the share of four-star hotels is 11 % (Tosun and Caliskan 2011).
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