Fiona Jeffery, chairman and founder of the international charity Just a Drop, stressed that water was an issue the travel and tourism industry needed to address urgently.
“Half the world's population is living in squalor and misery with unsanitary conditions and without access to clean water,” she said.
“The United Nation says that there could be water and improved sanitation facilities for all within 25 years if governments and industry made water provision an absolute priority. “
The results from the WTM Tourism and Water Report 2007 published last year in association with the International Centre for Responsible Tourism, Leeds Metropolitan University, were, according to Jeffery, “at the very worst shocking and at the least a wake up call to the industry to start addressing the problems of water. It is quite simply a time bomb waiting to happen.”
The report quotes that 92 per cent of international hotel respondents said that they felt water was an issue they should address and that 53 per cent believed that water shortages were already affecting their business.
It also recorded that 13 per cent assist the community with water and 11 per cent with sewage, while five per cent knew of other schemes in the tourism industry to provide potable water for local communities.
Seven per cent donated to a water related charity.
However, she added, “There was one redeeming fact. We found that those hotels that are engaged in water conservation are making a real difference to the local communities.”
“The key issue facing the industry is where water is diverted to meet the requirements of tourists it can severely deplete local aquifers and drain water courses, leaving local people short of water.”
She encouraged the travel and tourism industry to do something positive about reducing water consumption particularly in areas where its overuse could become a cause of conflict between local communities, farmers and the industry.
Although the industry was unlikely to run out of water, its ability to drill deeper boreholes to take fossil water, and to purchase from the public supply, meant that the poor would be unable to access water sufficient to meet their needs.
At this year’s Arabian Travel Market, organisers Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) announced that show exhibitors will be asked to give a donation upon signing up. In addition, RTE will make a donation to the charity on behalf of the Middle East’s media.
The ATM attracts over a 1,000 exhibitors from across the globe. “I believe Just a Drop is a great cause. Not only is water a universal and basic need, fundamental to human life, but also the charity is highly efficient. Through the ATM we are giving exhibitors, visitors and the media an opportunity to give something meaningful to a worth initiative,” said Simon Press, exhibition director, ATM.
The report stated that tour operators too need to challenge hoteliers to reduce water consumption, encourage holidaymakers to be more economical in their use and to reduce the number of plastic water bottles used.
The UK Federation of Tour Operators in their Supplier Sustainability Handbook 38 suggest how tour operators can help save water.
• Reduce leakages.
• Introduce water saving devices including flow restrictors and aerators or simply place a brick or a full plastic bottle in the cistern - every time a toilet is flushed this simple practice can save up to three litres of water.
• Treat waste water so it can be recycled for toilet flushing and irrigation - this also avoids polluting nearby water sources.
• Encourage guests to reuse towels and bed linen to reduce water consumption and chemicals, and control the temperature of mixer taps to reduce water (and energy) consumption by delivering water at the right temperature.
• Introduce irrigation systems, moisture sensors and timers to reduce waste and evaporation loss.
Just a Drop was established in 1998 and raises funds to build wells, hand pumps, bore holes and runs health and sanitation projects.
It supports some of the remotest communities in the world. To date it has operated in 24 countries including Afghanistan, Bolivia, Indonesia, India, Mozambique, Niger, Tanzania, Turkey and Zambia.