March 22 is World Water Day, designated to focus our attention on the importance of water. The theme for World Water Day 2018 is ‘Nature for Water’ – exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century. But of course water is essential for life, and thus affects every aspect of human development, as well as the ecosystems that support us. Today, 2.1 billion people still live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods. Earlier this week, on a visit to CABI Headquarters in Wallingford, CABI book author Dr Stroma Cole gave a talk on gender equality and tourism in which, with World Water Day this week, she focused particularly on water issues, and how women bear the brunt of the problems which can be created when tourism development increases demand for water. Dr Cole, a senior lecturer in tourism geography at the University of the West of England and a Director of Equality in Tourism, has worked on tourism and water inequality in Indonesia, Costa Rica and India, and in her presentation focused particularly on the situation in Labuan Bajo, a rapidly growing gateway town to Komodo National Park in Indonesia.
As my colleague Vera Barbosa said in her blog last week, here at CABI HQ in the UK we have been experiencing our wettest spring and early summer on record. Not surprisingly therefore, when going on holiday many of those who are able like to jet off to parts of the world where we can count on warm, dry weather which we don’t get to enjoy at home at the moment. But influxes of tourists demanding frequent showers, swimming pools, lush gardens and maybe even nice green golf courses put huge pressure on water resources in these dryer destinations, and it can be local communities who lose out when wealthy tourism businesses demand secure water supplies. The issue is highlighted today by pressure group Tourism Concern, which has launched a campaign for ‘Water Equity in Tourism’ with the release today of a report which uses case studies to highlight how disproportionate use of fresh water by tourists can create problems for local communities in developing countries.