UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Water footprint of coastal tourism facilities in small island developing states : a case-study of a beach resort in the Maldives Orellana Lazo, Miguel


Research on climate change indicates that the risk of water scarcity at many remote tourist destinations will increase in the next few decades. Tourism development puts strong pressure on freshwater resources, the availability of which is especially limited in remote areas. At locations with no access to conventional water sources, tourism facilities require supply alternatives, such as desalinated or imported water, which implies elevated energy demands and carbon emissions. In this context, a shift in the way freshwater use is assessed is crucial for moving toward a more sustainable model of water management for tourism development. This research adapts the Water Footprint framework to the design of tourism facilities and explains how and why this is a promising model for water accounting in isolated locations. Defined as 'an indicator of freshwater resources appropriation', the Water Footprint concept was introduced by Hoekstra in 2002. This methodology goes beyond the conventional direct water use assessment model, upon which most common benchmarking systems in sustainable tourism are based. Measuring the water footprint of a tourism facility allows operators and design teams to understand the environmental and socio-economic impacts associated with its direct and indirect water uses. Furthermore, this methodology enables a holistic consideration of all the water system components: supply, demand, and wastewater. Based on this framework, this thesis presents a Water Footprint Design Tool (Tool) for designers to use in the early stages of design. This Tool enables design teams to run various scenarios and understand how different water system designs can impact the footprint of a project. A case-study of a beach resort in the Maldives illustrates the application of the Tool in a specific context. The results showed that significant desalinated water footprint reductions (75.5%, 80.6% and 95.5%, depending on the precipitation year) could be achieved through the application of a series of water-saving strategies. Finally, this research introduces a three-scale process to be applied in new tourism development operations. This framework allows designers to easily identify which areas need improvement in order to achieve more ambitious water goals that would help make tourism development more sustainable in the future.

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