Water equity – Contrasting tourism water use with that of the local community

Tourism as an economic activity has grown substantially and is increasingly adding to local and seasonal pressures on water supply systems of tourist destinations around the world. Based on data from the AQUASTAT and EarthCheck tourist accommodation databases, this research analysed tourism-related water use in 21 countries and compared it with other municipal use. Tourists׳ water use on a per guest night basis was found to differ substantially, with water usage being highest (up to 956l per guest night in China) and most diverse in developing countries. The disparity between tourist water use and that of locals is also greatest in low or mid-income countries. Industrialised countries, in contrast, are characterised by high tourism water efficiencies, with no apparent discrepancy in water use between tourism and non-tourism users. Implications of this research for managing potential water conflicts and the need for broader tourist destination stewardship for water resources are discussed.

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