Practical Ways to Reduce Your Water Use Whilst Travelling

Aug 9, 2019

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Of all the water to be found on Earth’s surface, less than 1% is fresh water that is suitable for human use — whether in rivers, lakes, the atmosphere or groundwater. This 1% is under threat from rapidly growing populations, higher living standards, resource-intensive farming and climate change. Water scarcity is a recognised global problem, and as a result, we are encouraged to reduce our water use whilst at home in order to conserve water and to decrease our bills. However, there is relatively little information available to help us to cut back on water use whilst travelling.

Peak tourism seasons tend to occur in the driest months of the year. Water use is often significantly higher for hotel guests in comparison to local people, with this disparity being greatest in low- or mid-income countries. It is not only the volume of water used for tourism that is a concern, but also the amount of wastewater that is generated as a result. Many poorer countries don’t have the infrastructure to correctly process this, leading to many hotels dumping their wastewater into open waterways, such as the sea.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 30: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created as a still grab taken from video.) Cape Town residents queue to refill water bottles at Newlands Brewery Spring Water Point on January 30, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. Diminishing water supplies may lead to the taps being turned off for the four millions inhabitants of Cape Town on April 16 2018, known locally as Day Zero. Water will be restricted from 87 litres per day to 50 litres as temperatures reach 28 degrees later this week. Politicians are blaming each other and residents for the deepening crisis. (Photo by Morgana Wingard/Getty Images)
Cape Town residents queue to refill water bottles on January 30, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Morgana Wingard/Getty Images)

A recent study by the UK’s Environment Agency showed hotels could reduce the amount of water consumed per guest per night by up to 50% by making adjustments to their properties. Whether that means educating customers about water issues, installing water-efficient features, such as rainwater harvesting or using profits to support water charities.

As guests, though, there are many things that we can all do to reduce our water use, and, therefore, our impact on the local place, people and environment to which we are travelling. Below are some easy things that we can do to reduce our personal water use whilst abroad.

Have Showers Instead of Baths

The largest proportion of water used by hotels daily is bathroom water use by guests. There are small things you can do to help reduce this, such as turning the tap off whilst brushing your teeth, but a big change you can make is choosing to have a shower instead of a bath.

On average, it takes 115 litres of water to fill up a bath. In comparison, a short shower of about five minutes could more than half that water use to about 50 litres. If you wanted to go all out on reducing your impact whilst washing, you could even have a cold shower, as the colder the water, the less energy that’s required to heat it.

(Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)

Keep the ‘Do Not Disturb’ Sign on Your Door

If the ‘Do not disturb’ sign is not on your door then room service will clean your room daily. They will use water for cleaning, particularly in the bathrooms. If your room is not dirty and does not need cleaning, then leave the sign on your door and skip housekeeping for a day or two.

Similarly, opt to not have your towels and linens changed daily. Hotel laundry accounts for up to 16% of a hotel’s daily water use (a close second after toilets and showers), so opting to re-use towels and linens will drastically reduce this. Additionally, it will save a significant amount of energy in terms of washing, drying, ironing and eventually restocking those items.

Handwash Laundry

Typically, hotels will wash each guest’s laundry separately. So, if you don’t have enough for a full load of clothes, it would be much better to simply handwash the few items that you need to clean for your stay.

Take a Filter With You

When visiting countries with unsafe drinking water, purifying the water that comes out of the tap at your hotel is a great way to reduce your environmental impact, both in terms of water use, and in avoiding buying bottled water, which usually comes in single-use plastic bottles. Two great options are the Drinksafe Travel Tap or the Grayl Ultralight Water Purifier.

Make Conscious Food Choices

A big way to reduce your water use whilst on holiday is by thinking about what food you are consuming. Some types of food require significantly more water to be produced than others — specifically, animal-based products require more water than vegan ones. Making conscious decisions about food choices when eating meals on holiday can massively reduce your water use and the total carbon footprint for your trip.

Support a Clean Water Charity

Last but not least, a great way of helping to reverse your impact is by donating money to a clean water charity. The best would be to donate to a charity that is local to where you have visited, but some other great ones are Water Aid, Charity: Water, Clean Water Fund, and The Water Project.

Featured photo courtesy Getty Images.

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