Rational management of water resources cannot withstand mass tourism

Several local studies demonstrate this: expensive investments, pumping of aquifers, discharging wastewater into the environment: tourist centres are not "sustainable".

Abundant resources in Turkey still suffer from a decline in rainfall (MN)
Abundant resources in Turkey still suffer from a decline in rainfall (MN)
"The Mediterranean is the world’s leading tourist site and continues to attract more and more people" according to Mohend Mahouche, head of the WWF Mediterranean division: "172 million visitors in 1995, 249 million in 2004.  Forecasts predict 500 million visitors in 2025”.
Tourism generates "12% of export earnings in Mediterranean countries, 30% in the Southern Mediterranean," according to a report on "Sustainable Tourism” by the Regional Network of Managers of Protected Natural Areas in Provence Alpes and the Côte d'Azur.
According to Blue Plan for the Mediterranean, the downside of this negative impact on water resources and the need for significant investment to protect them means that tourism is not sustainable in many Mediterranean destinations, both north and south.
In a yet unpublished report, the UN targets 9 destinations, examining for each one, investment and costs incurred by local communities in terms of energy, waste or water, in order to attract visitors bringing in foreign currency.

Network losses, costly transfers and aquifers drying up...

Is exploiting aquifers a sensible thing to do? (MN)
Is exploiting aquifers a sensible thing to do? (MN)
This is what it’s like in Tetuan, Morocco on the Mediterranean coast.  Daily "tourist" water consumption there is 2 to 5 times that of the indigenous population.  Estimated in 1990 to be 21 Mm3, the annual consumption of “tourist” Tetuan and nearby coastal resorts exceeded 39 Mm3 in 2010, 50% of total demand.  This growth is even more worrying given the local resource is an aquifer that will not last forever.  The same problem applies to supplying power to Matruh in Egypt.
The situation is not necessarily any better in the north, as the examples of the two Sardinian resorts Castelsardo and Cabras seems to show.  The porosity of the distribution system makes "tourist" water management unsustainable: 37% network losses!  The provincial government thought it could relieve the problem by introducing an aqueduct plan to capture more water from mountain springs.
And if, as in Croatia, not irrigating agricultural land leaves water resources available for tourism, it has to be brought from Istria down to Rovinj on the coast.  "This makes the price of water relatively high," says the report.
On the southern coast of Turkey, Alanya captures both Western and Russian tourists, who are accustomed to lower prices in the low season.  "The water supply is not as problematic as in other destinations" the project manager was careful to note.  Nevertheless, this abundance was planned for with specific investments to increase resources in a few years, both to carry it and store it.  Today the downward trend in rainfall gives rise to worries that these efforts will not be sufficient in a few years.
Given the appetite of developers, how can we hope for better management of resources, which are even rarer as you approach the coast?  "Learning good practice and interregional cooperation," was Mohend Mahouche’s reply in 2009.

Version française

Michel Neumuller

Tuesday, October 30th 2012

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