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1 week in Bali, 1 person = 45,000 litres of water

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Tourism uses 65% of Bali’s precious water, but 80% of the economy there hinges on strong tourist numbers. So, just how much water could one traveler use in a 1 week trip to Bali?

According to research from Roy Morgan dated September 2015, 70% of Australians aged 14 and over intend to take a trip in the next 12 months. Out of these 70%, 10% intend to head overseas for their next holiday.

For these 10%, the second most popular destination is Bali in Indonesia, which hosted 1.1 million Australians and 8.3 million visitors from other countries in 2014. Australia makes up 12% of Bali’s visitors, which is perhaps unsurprising considering its proximity and relatively inexpensive costs.

Related: If you’re thinking of heading to Indonesia, make sure you check out our guide for Bali Travel Insurance before departure.

What is surprising are two simple facts; that according to waterfootprint.org, tourism uses 65% of the water resources in Bali, and that 80% or Bali’s economy depends on tourism. We could potentially be both helping and hurting this nation.

Why visit Bali?

Well, because it’s lovely! Okay, we’ll elaborate.

Eco Tourism is gaining traction as part of the travel industry. But in a location like Bali, where many of us visit because it’s such good value for money, environmental sustainability may be far from our minds. Conserving water may not be a top priority, but with Bali’s water deficit for 2015 reaching 27,000 gigalitres (48X the volume of Sydney Harbour), this idyllic location is facing a water shortage that could affect its travel industry.

To demonstrate just how much water holiday-makers use, the graphic below takes you along with 1 traveller, staying in average accommodation for a 1 week period. However, first we have to get there…

According to National Geographic, flying costs approximately 30.17 litres of water per kilometre. Therefore a return flight to Bali would cost 280,822 litres of water.

If there are 500 passengers, our travelers share is 560 litres.

Hotels room water usage generally increases with the quality of the establishment. 5 star rooms are estimated to use 4,000L per day, whereas 1 star rooms use 1,000. There are 28,800 1 rated hotel rooms in Bali, so if we take an average of 2,500L per day as a 60% occupancy rate 2, the total water used in 1 week for all Bali accommodation is somewhere around 42.3 million litres.

For one traveller staying in a 3 star room, water usage is estimated to be 17,500 litres.

Most Bali holiday properties have a private swimming pool, and as water evaporates under the hot sun these need to be topped up. The average volume of a swimming pool is 840m3, with an average surface area of 50m2. Based on estimations from hpac.com, and estimating that on a typical day in Bali its 27 degrees C, with a humidity of 60%, the water loss to evaporation is 0.1972kg per hour per square metre. Therefore 50m2 equates to 9.86L, if we then assume that sun is shining for an average of 10 hours per day, an average pool is losing 98.6litres of water per day.

1 Number of Rooms Available in rated hotels in Bali According to location, 2014
2 Percentage Star Hotel Room Occupancy Rate by Month and Class Hotels in Bali, 2014

Taking this calculation one step further, if we assume that all of hotels in Bali (a total of 1,056 hotels) have a pool, this equates to 104,121 litres of water per day lost to evaporation.

For one travelers share calculated as a percentage of total visitors and total water loss equals 33.08 litres – just to evaporation!

Related: 5 dress codes you should know before travelling

Many activities use water, but the most resource heavy is arguably golfing. An 18 hole golf course can use 3 million litres of water per day. Globally there are 32,000 golf courses using 9.5 billion litres of water per day.

For arguments sake, let’s say 30% of visitors play golf, which takes our visitors share to around 33 litres.

Food is a very heavy on water resources, especially meats. On an average day a person eats around 3,496 litres of water, but often more on holiday. Here is a typical days eating and drinking, and how much water was needed to produce this food as estimated using figures from waterfootprint.org:

If our traveller eats a diet like this every day of their stay, they will consume foods that have used 24,472 litres of water over 1 week.

The figures above don’t take account the water visitors need to drink, which is quite a lot in the hot Balinese sun. If our traveller drinks 5x 250ml bottles per day for one week, that’s 35 bottles, or 17.5 litres.

Overall, our traveller has used 42,699 litres of water in one week.

Although this seems like a lot, these are conservative estimates and only based on one person, rather than a family. So can anything be done about this? With 80% of Bali’s economy depending on tourism, choosing to holiday elsewhere is unlikely to help.

Small changes can make a big difference

Tourism depends on a healthy water supply, and Bali depends on tourism. It’s not an easy question to answer, but there are many small things travellers can do to make a difference. Taking short showers, eating a more plant based diet, choosing activities that don’t use much water, and making your concerns known to hotel owners are all great places to start. See the full infographic to track the water usage for one traveller’s trip to Bali.

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