Drought: singled out, Spanish tourism tries to show paw

Tourists sunbathe on one of the beaches of Lloret de Mar, June 29, 2023 In Lloret de Mar, it is impossible to shower on the beach this year. Struck by drought, this Spanish seaside resort is trying to save water by all means while the tourist sector is increasingly decried in the face of climate change. “It’s a shame, because it was nice to rinse off before leaving,” breathes Jonas Johanson, a 28-year-old Danish tourist, who walks with his loved ones, under the midday sun, on the seafront of this emblematic locality of the Costa Brava, in Catalonia (north-east). A sacrifice that does not seem too important, however, given the historic drought experienced for months by Spain, a European country on the front line in the face of global warming. In Catalonia, the level of reservoirs, which store rainwater for use during the drier months, has fallen to 29% of their capacity. This has forced the authorities to impose certain restrictions since March in order to avoid a shortage of running water for the 7.7 million inhabitants of the region. Measures that are not always to the liking of the tourism sector, a pillar of the Spanish economy weighing 12% of GDP. “The water can be reduced in many other ways,” complains Sara Loulidi, a 55-year-old receptionist who works opposite the beach. We cannot “leave tourists without showers. We all live off tourism,” she insists. – “Limited resources” – With 71.6 million foreign tourists received in 2022, Spain is the second largest tourist destination in the world behind France. But this activity, on which 2.5 million jobs depend, is attracting growing criticism from environmentalists and some residents, who question the sustainability of the Spanish model of mass tourism. “We have to set limits,” says David Saurí, professor of geography at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. “What we cannot allow is uncontrolled growth, with more and more people coming and fewer and fewer resources.” According to him, the water consumption induced by the stay of a tourist in a four or five star hotel can be more than twice that of an average inhabitant. “Water resources are limited (…) This forces us to rethink what resources we can or cannot offer tourists”, judge Jordi Palaudelmàs, spokesperson for the SOS Lloret association, which has been calling for a more sustainable model for years. Anxious to reduce the impact of tourism on water resources, the regional authorities want to ensure, by 2040, that the consumption of a tourist is similar to that of a resident. This will force the sector to make great efforts. – “Transform” – Located not far from the beach, the Samba hotel has already benefited from a major renovation in 1997 to install a wastewater reuse circuit for flushing toilets, which would have allowed it to save 215 million liters since then. An increasingly widespread system, even if there is still a long way to go. “(The sector) should have taken the bull by the horns a long time ago. And if we don’t get started today, it could become a problem, ”insists Laura Pérez, responsible for environmental issues within this 434-room establishment. As in other municipalities on the Spanish coast, gardens in Lloret are watered with recycled water, the use of which has increased by 25%, due to the drought, although the necessary infrastructure is still limited. “In coastal municipalities (…) we can ensure that a lot of reprocessed water does not go directly into the sea” as is usually the case, explains Carlos Gil, parks and gardens technician for the municipality. The same concern at the WaterWorld water park, which has managed to reduce its consumption by 32% since 2019. Despite the difficulties, its director, Julià López, is optimistic about the future of the sector, even if he believes that there is still work to be done. “The country must transform and reuse much more water than it does,” he pleads. LNT with Afp To go further