It is no secret that hotels use a lot of water. For example, according to the U.S.’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hotels and other lodging businesses account for 15% of water used commercially in the United States. Research from the International Tourism Partnership details that a hotel can consume up to 1,500 litres daily per occupied room, and in some countries, guests use ten times or more water than is typical for local people.
Consider that those countries who are predicted to have with the highest water stress in the approaching years are also among those with the greatest tourism growth. This puts hotels in a serious predicament as water challenges escalate. The water crisis in Cape Town which saw over 10 million visitors in 2016 is a good example. As Cape Town confronted the possibility of the city cutting off water supplies, many hotel guests were asked to limit shower times. Some restaurants started using disposable cups and scrapped table linens – not ideal for those looking luxurious travel.
With the world facing a 40% water shortfall by 2030, the hotel industry is being encouraged to look at its water consumption. Reining in water usage is beneficial for hotels for a myriad of reasons. For one, tourists prefer to stay at eco-friendly hotels. A survey by TripAdvisor found that 79 percent of travelers place importance on choosing eco-friendly accommodations. Secondly. with the constant rise in water costs, the economic benefits are plentiful. Hotels can pay twice for the water they use, purchasing and then disposing of it as waste. Furthermore, hotels are often built around a water feature such as the ocean or a lake and if that were polluted or tainted business would be considerably impacted.
Six Steps for Water Stewardship
The International Tourism Partnership recently released a Water Stewardship Report which outlines six steps for hotels to take for implementing an effective water strategy. Take a look and see which recommendations might be appropriate for your business:
- Understand your relationship with water, including quantifying your current and future water use, identifying its sources, impact and dependencies and sharing that information through reporting and engagement with local stakeholders. ITP provides research, tools and benchmarking to help hotel companies through this step.
- Set targets and create a plan of action. Prioritize areas where the best impact can be made and define long-term targets based in science and local contexts. Set indicators for progress with trackable metrics and transparent performance indicators that each property can report against.
- Manage water sustainably in your operations. Identify water efficiencies at the property level, ensure adequate wastewater treatment, reduce your pressure on freshwater resources by recycling water, and involve your staff and guests to support your water stewardship measures.
- Work with suppliers on water. Analyze products and services of highest spending and engage with suppliers regarding their water stewardship to better identify and address your indirect impacts on water in basins where they are operating.
- Build resilience to extreme events and water shortages. A water stewardship strategy should include procedures and provisions to provide immediate relief effort, address recovery needs and help mitigate against future occurrences of extreme weather events. Properties should focus on improving their resilience to floods, manage their freshwater supply and protect local communities when disaster strikes.
- Collaborate on sustainable water management. Any hotel can have impact on the quality of water and on other water users. Hotels need to understand the local water risks and opportunities, engage with existing water initiatives, share information with the public sector and other water users, and support access to clean water, health and sanitation.
Learn how one hotel saved millions of gallons of water using sustainable laundry operations.