There are two main things affecting the drinking water supply at sunny, Caribbean destinations: Overuse and Contamination.
For many Caribbean nations, such as the Bahamas and Barbados, freshwater resources are some of the scarcest on the planet. With almost no surface water available, the available drinking water on many islands is largely limited to limestone aquifers sourced from rain. Islanders also rely heavily on captured rain water to drink, cook, and bath with.
Drought is also affecting the water supply at tourist destinations. California, for example, is experiencing one of the worst droughts in state history and groundwater supplies are being depleted at unprecedented rates.
It is old news that the tourism industry is a heavy consumer of freshwater. According to the UN Environment Program, “Tourist resorts use on average five to ten times more water than similar residential areas in the Caribbean.” Tourists themselves use 2 to 10 times more water per day than locals.
When the demand on freshwater resources is consistently greater than the renewable supply, that leaves everything and everyone dependent on the finite freshwater incredibly vulnerable.
It is unavoidable. On vacation, you are going to use the washroom. At the hotel, on the boat, at the beach. And that means you are going to produce black (your body’s waste products) and grey water (any other use that hasn’t been in contact with poo). Think of this as your sewage footprint.
Many islands do not have sufficient wastewater infrastructure to handle and safely dispose of the sewage produced by citizens and by tourists. In the Caribbean, for example, the state of wastewater treatment and infrastructure is grim. Many hotels and resorts dispose of sewage sub-surfacely. Basically, that means black and grey water is pumped underground, either using deep well injection or absorption technology.
Low lying nations, founded on fossil coral and limestone, are extremely vulnerable to pollution from sewage. Absorption (or soakaway) and deep well injection technologies used to handle sewage often leads to contamination of underground aquifers, which island nations rely upon for their drinking supply.
Another common method to dispose of sewage is to release it, either raw or partially treated, directly into the environment, which inevitably contaminates fresh and coastal waters.
With an estimated 8 million tourists travelling from North America to the Caribbean every year, central wastewater systems are also at risk of being overwhelmed due to poor or non-working infrastructure that cannot handle the sheer volume of sewage produced by tourists.
Sewage contamination in both marine and freshwater is becoming more and more of a problem as the number of tourists and the size of resorts increases.
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