Catalonia wants help from tourists with water conservation

by Lorraine Williamson
water conservation
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BARCELONA – The availability of water in Barcelona is 26 times lower than in Paris and 300 times lower than in Vienna. With that in mind, the authorities in Catalonia want to use water more efficiently and are also counting on the help of tourists for water conservation. 

The campaign to promote water conservation among tourists is part of the European Life Wat’Savereuse project. To this end, the Catalan Water Agency (ACA), Eurecat, and the Catalan Water Partnership (CWP) are working together, they announced in a statement on Wednesday. 

Catalonia’s water reality explained 

Available in four languages, Catalan, Spanish, English, and French, the campaign explains the water reality of Catalonia. Which is characterised by scarcity. ‘Together for Water’ will be found in hotels and apartment complexes in the region that cater to tourists. They are provided with informative material to print out and place in rooms, apartments, and bathrooms. There is also a QR code with information. In addition, all tourist offices in the various Catalan municipalities cooperate. 

Wat’Savereuse 

The European Life Wat’Savereuse project also aims to promote the use of reclaimed water for recreational, municipal, and hotel activities and to develop new technologies in this regard. 

In this regard, ACA, Eurecat, and CWP have prepared three technical documents. They contained information on the measures and new technologies that hotels and other tourist establishments can use to reduce consumption and promote reuse. 

The general goals of the project are: 

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  • Reducing the total water consumption of tourists during their stay in hotels, campsites, and other types of accommodation 
  • Promote the reuse of water and raise awareness among stakeholders in the tourism sector. 
  • Encouraging the tourism industry to implement at least 5 water reuse solutions in their businesses. 
  • Strengthening water management through collaboration between public authorities and value chain operators. 
  • Reducing global freshwater consumption by 30% 

Tourism is not the largest water consumer 

Compared to other sectors in Spain, tourism is not the largest consumer of freshwater. Agriculture and industry consume many times more. However, tourists often consume a lot of water in areas where water is scarce. Or, moreover, where the circulation speed of aquifers is limited. As a result, its contribution to water consumption can still be significant nationally and regionally. 

Water consumption tourists 

And we are not just talking about drinking water, but all activities related to tourism. This includes kitchens, laundries, bathrooms, showers, swimming pools, whirlpools, cooling or garden irrigation. In addition, as using water for various activities such as golf, diving, saunas or spas. Water consumption generally varies between 84 and 2,000 litres per tourist per day.  And, furthermore, up to 3,423 litres per room per day. 

Average water consumption by tourists in Spain 

The average consumption of water by tourists visiting Spain is also very high, it can be three to four times more than the consumption of a resident. While an average citizen consumes 132 litres per day, the consumption per tourist varies between 450 and 800 litres, depending on the season and area. 

In addition, 85% of international tourists in Spain go to places where water is scarce, especially in the dry summer season. 

The water bill is not an incentive for the sector 

The tourism sectors have been considering efficiency and awareness-raising measures in the use of water for years, “but the reality is that there is little initiative on water conservation. They are willing to do more for corporate social responsibility than for the sustainability of water resources”, says Carlos Mario Gómez of the Forum for the Economy of Water in Elagoradiario.es. 

The main reason for this is that water expenditure represents barely 10% of the operating costs of tourism companies. Spain offers one of the cheapest water rates in Europe. “By charging less than €2 per cubic metre of water, you don’t encourage water savings. That is well below the €6 to €7 that Denmark and the Netherlands charge,” said the expert. 

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