Trying to reduce your water consumption while traveling? Read on for some great tips!
Water is something most of us take for granted, however, 785 million people do not have a clean water source close to their homes. Living in developed countries, it’s easy not to give much thought about how the water we use is a scarce and finite resource. I have always been aware of this issue, but being without water for 10 days last summer when the reservoir near us had run dry (it has actually only just filled up again after a very wet autumn/winter) brought my thoughts into sharp focus, especially as the water company simply started dispensing bottles in 1.5-liter bottles! This as you can imagine, sent shivers down my spine as studies have shown that only 1/3 of plastic waste is actually recycled, and in the worst cases sees it being shipped to developing countries to get rid of.
What does this have to do with travel? Well, pretty much everything. Most of us have traveled to countries that don’t have the same infrastructure as us. Even in Europe, there are countries that suffer drought on a regular basis, and there are islands where there is no natural water source & no rainfall (e.g. Lanzarote) so that water has to be shipped in on a regular basis as the desalination plant can’t cope with the excess demand that tourists (vital to their economy) bring with it. My husband in 2018 traveled to Cape Town where they were only a certain number of weeks away from the whole city running out of water. With increasing demand, this will happen again, despite the measures that they have taken.
Climate change also has an immeasurable effect on water and the poorest members of the world, many of whom are already struggling to get clean water. 2020 was the hottest year on record and this caused huge problems – the weather is becoming more extreme, which results in either too much water (see floods in Tanzania which meant that clean water sources were soiled), or too little water (wildfires in Australia being an example). According to water aid, 90% of natural disasters are water-related, and they massively impact people’s lives.
So as travelers, what is our responsibility? What can we do?
In terms of climate change, we need to be mindful of how often and the methods of travel. Airplanes are one of the worst offenders and carbon off-set schemes are fraught with compromise. Maybe jumping on that quick flight to x,y,z for two or three days might not be on the menu (sorry!) but taking longer trips of three or more weeks would make a difference. Maybe train journeys or car trips should become more common (have a look on our blog for some really cool examples!)
Secondly, try to limit the amount of excess water you use/consume. Showers/baths should be limited and if you can, water should be collected whilst the water is warming up so that you can do other tasks such as washing out your swimming suits, or children’s clothes. To this end, why not pack a collapsible bucket (also useful at the swimming pool and beach!). Investigate different ways to do things – shaving for example; does it really need running water? A small bowl or even a flannel wiped over the morning dew is plenty sufficient for both men and women.
But we buy bottled water I hear you cry? Yes, this is something we all need to do when traveling. Even when we go home to France we often have to buy bottled water as our supply at the top of the hill isn’t always the best. However, there are ways of mitigating the waste. You can either buy a carbon filtering water bottle which is fine for certain areas or buy big. Buy as big as you can get and decant from there into a reusable bottle! You will not only save yourself a fortune but also will hugely reduce the amount of waste you produce!
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