Hospitality industry needs to act before water crisis creates conflict

In the lead up to UN World Water Day on 22 March, a prominent research consortium supported by the EarthCheck Research Institute (ERI), together with Ecolab (ECL) and Griffith University, has released its second white paper on water, calling on the tourism industry – a heavy user of water - to act fast.

The paper titled, “From Challenges to Solutions: Providing the Business Case,” shows that water and it’s combined effect with energy use could become the most contested resource of the future.

Addressing more than 50 tourism industry professionals at a distinguished lecture at Eaton Hong Kong, Dr Susanne Becken a Professor of Sustainability from Australia’s Griffith University said the tourism industry is at risk.

“Tourism in the Asia Pacific region is growing at five per cent per annum. At the same time, more than 75 per cent of the countries are experiencing water stress at least at some critical period throughout the year,” Dr Becken said.

“The quality of the available water supply is diminishing, while the demands on volume and the costs to use are increasing.

“Layer into this the inequity of water use by large hotels where the consumption of water by guests can outpace that of the local population by up to eight times, and the potential for conflict becomes a significant new business risk.”

Contributor to the white paper and co-presenter, EarthCheck CEO Mr Stewart Moore believes water is currently undervalued relative to its true environmental cost, although the situation is changing.

“There’s a nexus between energy and water – water forms part of the production process, and energy is required to produce water. The two are inextricably linked and this puts strains on both resources,” said Mr Moore.

“We’ve all become accustomed to carbon footprinting. Next, it will be about water footprinting. That completely changes our thinking and makes us realize that hotel and tourism businesses need to have dedicated water management plans; plans which are actually implemented.”

EarthCheck Research Institute (ERI) Chairman, Professor David Simmons (from New Zealand’s Lincoln University) said the tourism industry has to make swift changes to meet the new risks, including introducing responsible design and operational practices before hotel developments are approved.

“Developers have to look beyond the box that they are building and see if it fits in with the existing environment,” said Professor Simmons.

“If we destabilise destinations by developing a ‘giant box’ in the middle of a village – one that soaks up precious resources for the rare few - then we are bound to face issues.”

EarthCheck has developed the world’s most comprehensive database on the operational performance of hotels reaching back some 15 years. This allows the organisation to benchmark and baseline facilities around the globe.

In December last year, the EarthCheck Research Institute added to the stockpile of data when it surveyed 181 hotels globally and found that water consumption varied considerably, ranging from around 200 litres per day in Europe to more than 900 litres in the Philippines, Malaysia and China. The survey highlighted that hotels deploy different initiatives to minimize water usage.

“With this data we can help facilities understand how much water they are using, understand their footprint, and provide benchmarks, monitoring tools and practical insights to guide them toward improved operational performance,” said Mr Moore.

“Major changes are required that involve leaps in the way we use water and how we deploy technology.”

Dr. Susanne Becken, professor of Sustainable Tourism at Griffith University, together with Dr. Raj Rajan, vice president of Global Sustainability for Ecolab, will present the findings of the white paper at a special World Water Day Distinguished Lecture at Eaton Hong Kong on March 20 at 09:15 am.

The presentation is based on the findings of the White Paper as prepared by:

  • Dr. Susanne Becken, Professor of Sustainable Tourism, Griffith University
  • Dr. Raj Rajan, RD&E Vice President, Global Sustainability Technical Leader, Ecolab
  • Stewart Moore, CEO, EarthCheck / EC3 Global
  • Melinda Watt, Chief Scientist, EarthCheck
  • Dr. Char-Lee McLennan, Research Fellow, Griffith University
  • Nicole Garofano, Research Assistant, EC3 Global

About EarthCheck

EarthCheck, managed and owned by EC3 Global, is an internationally recognised environmental management and certification program with members in over 80 countries. The program improves operational performance of member organisations and reduces costs. Recent studies show that six million people a week are impacted by EarthCheck’s branded solutions. The company takes a scientific and systematic approach to risk mitigation and legislative requirements and is regarded as one of the world’s best practice environmental sustainability leaders. For more information, visit

About the EarthCheck Research Institute

The EarthCheck Research Institute (ERI) is a not-for-profit company whose goal is to be a leading international centre for scientific excellence in sustainable tourism. The institute focuses on scientific research, education and capacity building to solve real-world challenges. The role of the ERI is to provide advice on the key sustainability and climate change issues now facing the world’s travel and tourism industry and to provide advice and assistance to industry on the changing needs of new mandated reporting standards for climate change and sustainability. The ERI includes eight international centres of excellence with an established reputation for ground-breaking research. For more information, visit

About Griffith University

Griffith University is a top-ranking university, based in South East Queensland, Australia. Research on sustainable tourism is largely undertaken at the Centre for Tourism, Sport and Services Research (TSSR), which is part of the Griffith Business School. TSSR acts as a focal point for innovative, quality research in tourism, sport, and services research. Through its activities, the Centre links university-based researchers with the business sector and organisations, as well as local, state and federal government bodies. For more information, visit .

About Ecolab

A trusted partner at more than one million customer locations, Ecolab (ECL) is the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources. With 2013 sales of $13 billion and 45,000 associates, Ecolab delivers comprehensive solutions and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use and improve operational efficiencies for customers in the food, healthcare, energy, hospitality and industrial markets in more than 170 countries around the world. For more Ecolab news and information, visit

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