The Impact Of Tourism On Water Consumption Tourism Essay

Tourism is the major economic sector for many countries around the world especially for small island developing states. . The major growth of the tourism industry started in the 1980’s culmination increasing coastal development with major investments in hotels Mauritius is now a well established high class tourist resort destination and tourism is the third pillar of the Mauritian economy after the export processing zone manufacturing sector and agriculture. It contributes significantly to economic growth and has been a key factor in the overall development of Mauritius. In the past two decades tourist arrivals increased at an average annual rate of 9% and in 2000, gross tourism receipts contributed about 11% of the GDP of Mauritius. (CSO, 2007))

The plan of the government is targeting 2.0 million tourists from 2015 to 2020. The strategy for the development of the Tourism sector takes its base in the Tourism Development Plan (2002). It presents a twenty year vision which sees the tourism industry growing but ensuring that environmental and social issues are addressed to the benefit of the people of Mauritius (Min .of Environment and NDU).

The Action Plan includes private sector investments in tourist accommodation, tourist

attractions, and ancillary facilities, public sector investment in tourism support programmes

(e.g. roads, car parking, water and sewage schemes), infrastructure and critical tourism

product improvements, diversification and innovations, human resource development/social

projects and environmental management support. There will be an accompanying demand

for services for high quality up-market tourists with specially trained staff and hotel rooms

including trained tour guides and support services such as flight bookings, airline operations,


Tourism and water

The industry is also a major consumer of water resources and impacting heavily on water demand of island states. The problem of water supply is further exacerbated by the impact of climate change. Tourism industry relies also on a safe and reliable supply of water.

With the goal of attracting 2M tourists by 2015 in Mauritius the intensive tourism development that will follow will have a major impact on our natural resources (CSD, 1996). It has been growing rapidly and impacting on the natural resources of the host countries. Overexploitation of water resources can impact negatively on ecosystems which are major components of its tourism industry. Competition for water resources by the tourism sector and domestic population is a global problem exacerbated by the climate change (Goodwin, 2007). Mauritius is facing each year prolong drought problems during the dry season where it is also the peak tourist period. Over extraction and lowering of ground water table can lead to eventually the depletion of aquifers as it is not replenished as rapidly it is consumed. Pollution from sea water intrusion will further limit the availability of freshwater. The latter will be more apparent with sea level rise due to global warming (Goodwin, 2007).

The tourism industry faces two issues with regards to water as a resource namely how it affects distribution of water and secondly the impact of the industry’s consumption on the environment and the availability of water (Goodwin, 2007). For the development of large resorts, especially in water scarcity areas, the water available for the local people is deviated to provide for these resorts (Goodwin, 2007).

In many places water is diverted to provide for tourists and thus leaving indigenous population short of water. European Environment Agency (2003) in its assessment reported that tourists consume up to 300 Litres (up to 880 Litres for luxury tourism) and generate around 180L of wastewater per day. The number of tourists visiting particular places is season dependent and is not constant all year round and tends to be concentrated in places which have limited water resources (Garcia and Servera, 2003). There are conflicts of interests as the tourism industry is able to buy water at higher prices whereas the poorer population will have more frequent water shortage (Goodwin, 2007). In Tunisia groundwater resources that were important for agriculture were diverted to provide for the tourism industry and thus creating a new problem of dried out land that are unarable and had to be abandoned. The European Tourism Study Group report 2007 conclude that “hotels are high consumers of water, as a tourist staying in a hotel uses on average one third more water per day than a local inhabitant”. The desalination of sea water on a large scale is a measure affordable to countries with high revenues such as United Arab Emirates and Maldives which have oil resources (Dluzewska, 2008).


Tourism is being given special attention with respect to its actual and potential impacts in land use (Rico-Amoros, et al., 2008). The tourism distribution is not homogenous for many countries and the different forms and types of tourism have different water requirement (Gossling, 2001). Water consumption by the tourism sector is not well documented by statistics at present. More complete information on water demand of tourism and its different subsector ( second homes, facilities, activities etc,) is needed by state and local authorities to define priorities for water conservation or demand management programs ( Hof. et al, 2011). Rico-Amoros et al. (2008) mentioned that the development of tourism in Mediterranean region is enhancing pressure on water demand because there high numbers of tourists at specific period and summer droughts which further decrease the availability of water. However, from closer study of the different type of tourists, Rico-Amoros et al (2008) found out that concentration of tourists such as in hotels tend to use comparatively less water than disperse, low density residential resorts. Hof and Schmitt (2011) found out that increase water consumption is directly related to the low-density residential tourist land use due to outdoor uses such as swimming pools and gardens comparing with tourists in hotels. The research of Hof and Schmitt (2011) concluded that in summer 70% of the total water consumption in the residential tourist areas is used for gardens irrigation which has been identified as the main cause for increase in water consumption. The additional pressure on water use is from individually own swimming pools which accounts for 22 litres/person/day as shown by Hof and Schmitt (2011). Hotels with golf courses were analysed for their water consumption patterns and regression analysis demonstrated that the size and price were important factors that will influence the water use by golf courses (Gopalakrishnan, 2003). Resorts and hotels golf courses are heavy water users and for small islands the problem is urgent as there is limited resources of drinking water, and thus the water must be judiciously managed ( Graefe and Vaske, 1987).

Benchmarks for water use in guest rooms in litres per guest night
















Source IBLF & WWF-UK (2005) p.19

Mauritius as SIDS: its vulnerability

Small Island States are mostly dependent on their natural environment for promoting tourism development but paradoxically the tourism development appear to be a fast track to social and economic development and thus little care is given for the ecosystem (CSD, 1996). The environment impacts of tourism are more consequent in Small Island States due to its limited land space and freshwater resource. Land is use to build infrastructures and facilities for tourists along with hotels and the new trend of residential houses or apartment. Rising prices of building land increase the pressure to build on agricultural land as the tourism sector is more lucrative. In many countries including Mauritius, there has been unchecked construction along the coast whereby the original pristine beauty of these areas has been changed in favour of urbanization since the development of the tourism sector (CSD, 1996). It is only recently that governments are taking measures through legislations to protect the natural resources and promote sustainable. development. Over the past years, there has been a drastic increase in water demand from the different economic and demographic sectors, which in general is leading the country to a water stressed situation.

Mauritius and its water resources

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report, Mauritius is already facing a situation of water stress because it has a supply of 1083 m3 per person per year (based on actual population), which is below the norm of 1 700m3 per person per year. Mauritius is expected to suffer from water scarcity by 2020 with a projected supply of 974 m3 per person per year (based on a projected population of 1 335 000). Although the figures can be interpreted in various ways, they provide an indication of the problems that Mauritius may face in the future regarding water supply. The water sector faces a number of challenges resulting from increasing demand from the different sectors. New dams are planned to be built and reduction in unaccounted for water are being envisaged with big investment in new pipe networks.

Diversification of the tourism product-IRS in Mauritius

In view to attract more foreign investment Mauritius has recently introduced a new type of development namely the Integrated Resort Schemes (IRS) whereby resorts are being constructed that include hotels, residential villas and golf courses. Since 2005 there has been an increase in the number of resorts and golf courses though the financial crisis has put a halt to this rapid increase. These developments have put further pressure to the scarce water resources. In Mauritius strategies are being put in place to manage the water resources the demand as well as the supply sides. The IRS promotes the concept of residential tourism with second permanent homes for rich retired or rich celebrities. This market diversification has therefore allowed the development of golf, villas, spas and also permanent second homes or residential that have increased the demand of water from the tourism sector.

In encouraging this type of development and targeting more and more tourist this will again have a consequences on the water resources. Mauritius depend on a few number of reservoirs and are already under pressure to supply for the domestic, industrial, agricultural and tourism sector. The tourist hotel mainly the large ones have started to have desalination plants to have constant supply of water.

Due to high water demand Mauritius has reached almost its limits in terms of underground resources. The table below shows the water requirements till 2050.

Table 1:Water requirements in Mauritius

(Proag, V., 2006, Water Resources Management in Mauritius. European Water 15/16: 45-57)

Available Water resources and climate change could however have an impact on the diversification strategy thereby causing a decline of growth in the tourism sector especially if these water crises are not well managed. (Essex et al, 2004)

Residential Tourism or second homes

The different types of tourist accomodation and new type of residential tourism do not consume water resources similarly. The golf courses are consuming more and more water for irrigation purposes. A.Hof et al (2011) have shown that outdoor uses such as swimming pools, garden irrigation are also have a high impact on water resources. As determined by a study (Gopalakrishnan and Cox 2003) shows that number of units of swimming pools and golf courses will determine the consumption of water.

Aim of paper

To develop appropriate strategies for the management of the water resources information on the tourism sector demand for water and the different usage will be required. There is however an information gap with regards to its impact on water resources .

This paper will try to show the influence of tourism: hotel, non hotel and residential on the scarce water resources and thereby assist in developing a strategy for a sustainable tourism.

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