Mediterranean water resources threatened by expanding tourism | WWF

Mediterranean water resources threatened by expanding tourism

Posted on
15 July 2004

Gland, Switzerland – The expansion of the tourism industry in the Mediterranean is destroying valuable wetlands and contributing to the depletion of the water resources that local communities and the tourism industry depend on, warns a WWF report. It says that the expected tourism boom over the next twenty years - with tourist numbers expected to reach 655 million people annually by 2025 - will strain water resources further as tourist services such as golf courses and swimming pools continue to be built. 
The WWF report, Freshwater and Tourism in the Mediterranean, says that important wetlands, including Ramsar sites of international importance, are being destroyed by tourism activities. France, Greece, Italy, and Spain have already lost half of their original wetland areas. Tourism near Spain’s Doñana National Park is competing with the park’s wetlands for already scarce resources. WWF also fears that resorts planned on the Moulouya estuary in Morocco could further threaten the endangered monk seal and the slender-billed curlew, one of the rarest birds in Europe. 
"In addition, the tourism industry’s growing demand for water-guzzling facilities and services such as water parks, golf courses, and landscaping is destroying the very resource it depends on," said Holger Schmid of WWF’s Mediterranean Freshwater Programme. "We shouldn’t forget that our holidays also take their toll on precious resources like water." 
The report points out that tourists and tourism facilities in the region use up to 850 litres of water per person a day during the summer - almost four times the daily water consumption of an average Spanish city dweller. In Cyprus, where water resources are very limited, eight golf courses are being built. A golf course needs about 1 million cubic metres of water per year - equivalent to the water consumption of a city of 12,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, poor water treatment systems are failing to cope with the increasing demands from tourism, causing untreated water to contaminate sea water and rivers, threatening fish and waterbirds such as the marbled teal and Dalmatian pelican. 
WWF urges authorities to reduce overall water use during periods of drought and ensure that tourism development in coastal areas takes wetland conservation into account. The report shows that 230 billion litres of water could be saved if water use by tourists was halved. WWF also calls on the tourism industry to install water saving devices and re-use wastewater for tourist-related services such as landscaping and golf courses. Local authorities should develop water saving policies and incentives. 
"Existing water resources can meet the rising demands from tourism if the industry and tourists halve their water consumption," said Holger Schmid. "This will cut costs and protect the local water resources on which both tourists and the local communities depend."
For further information:

Sampreethi Aipanjiguly
Communications Officer
WWF Mediterranean Programme Office
Tel. +39 06 84497224
Lisa Hadeed
Communications Manager
WWF Freshwater Programme
Tel. +41 22 3649030
Mitzi Borromeo
WWF International Press Office
Tel.+41 79 4773553

•Water use varies according to the type of tourism – mass tourism where the highest water demand occurs, eco-tourism with lower water demand.
•Many rare and endangered plants and animals either live in wetlands or depend on them for survival. Over 80 per cent of the species listed for protection under the 1992 Habitats Directive of the EU are of Mediterranean distribution, many of them linked to wetlands.
•The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty, which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.