Spain’s Drought-Hit Tourism Sector Seeks To Save Water

Via Terra Daily, an article on Spanish efforts to save water in its tourism sector:

There are no longer showers on the beach in Lloret de Mar which, like many popular tourist resorts in drought-hit Spain, is seeking ways to conserve its increasingly sparse water supplies.With Spain at the forefront of the climate crisis in Europe, its key tourism sector is facing growing pressure to reduce its environmental impact and become more sustainable.

“It’s a shame because it was nice to shower off,” said Jonas Johanson, a 28-year-old tourist from Denmark as he took a stroll in the blazing sun along the popular northeastern resort’s promenade.

Rainfall in Spain has been very low for the past year, leaving reservoirs in Catalonia, where Lloret is located, at just 29 percent of their capacity.

Since March, large swathes of this northeastern region of 7.7 million residents, including its capital Barcelona, have limited water usage for agriculture and industry to ensure that homes remained supplied.

But not everyone has welcomed such measures in a country where tourism accounts for 12 percent of its economic output and 2.5 million jobs.

“You can reduce water use in many ways and not leave the tourism sector without showers,” grumbled Sara Loulidi, 55, who works as a receptionist on Lloret’s hotel-lined seafront.

“We all survive on tourism.”

As the world’s second-most visited country after France, Spain welcomed 71.6 million international visitors last year, the bulk of them drawn to its sunny beaches.

“You have to put some kind of limits in place,” said David Sauri, a geography expert at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

“What we cannot afford is uncontrolled growth, with more and more people coming and ever fewer resources.”

– Wastewater recycling –

A tourist at a four-star or five-star hotel can consume more than twice as much water as the average resident, he said.

Catalonia’s regional government wants to ensure that by 2040, both tourists and locals are consuming the same amount of water.

“Water resources are limited and if we dedicate ourselves to tourism, that means we need to rethink what resources we can or can’t give to tourists,” said Jordi Palaudelmas of SOS Lloret, a local group which has campaigned for years for a more sustainable tourism model.

With this aim in mind, the Hotel Samba underwent a refurbishment in 1997 to allow it to recycle wastewater, which so far has saved 215 million litres of water, it says.

The water from most of the showers and baths in this 434-room hotel is sent to the basement where it is filtered and treated so it can be reused.

Such a system is becoming increasingly common, but the sector still has a long way to go.

“The homework should have been done much earlier,” said Laura Perez, head of environmental issues at the hotel.

– ‘Needs to transform’ –

A few kilometres away, sprinklers water a vast municipal garden with sweeping views of the turquoise Mediterranean.

Posters inform visitors that the sprinklers use recycled water — the only type which can be used without limitation this summer.

Like other municipalities, Lloret has for years been using recycled wastewater to irrigate gardens and clean streets.

The drought has forced a 25 percent increase in the use of wastewater, although the network that supplies it is still very limited.

“In coastal areas… we can save a lot of retreated water from going directly to the sea by finding new uses for it,” said Carlos Gil, who is responsible for Lloret’s parks and gardens.

Even Lloret’s Water World aquatic park has managed to reduce its water usage by 32 percent since 2019 by changing its irrigation systems and using plants that need less water.

Park director Julia Lopez is optimistic about the future, although he says there is still work to be done.

“Spain needs to rethink itself and reuse much more water,” he said.

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