Diving can be a very water intensive activity depending on how water use is managed in a resort or dive centre. Water is an incredibly precious and important resource for the tourism industry and for local communities, and yet we often take it completely for granted. Frequently, tourism places severe pressure on water resources in destinations, and its demands are growing fast.
Tourism is growing rapidly in areas where future water security is most uncertain. Think about the numbers of hotels springing up alongside the Red Sea, or on tiny Maldivian islands - where do they get their water from? Water use for tourism is having a serious (usually negative) impact on the ecosystems it relies upon. The damage being done through pollution and over-extraction is often irreversible. For marine ecosystems, water quality is critical. If waste water is not treated adequately before it is released from hotels, this can have a severe impact on the coral reef. For more about the impact of clean water on the health of coral reefs see this post from back in September about a scientific study that suggested cleaner water helps reefs to stay healthy. So as divers we have a vested interested in thinking about how our water use in resort directly impacts the underwater world we love to enjoy.
So what can divers do about it?
Rinsing your kit
I had always been led to believe that rinsing kit after diving was the best way to take care of it and make it last longer. However after a bit of research into this I found that the reason you rinse kit is to prevent the damage caused by the formation of salt crystals as it dries out. If kit is not going to dry out then you don’t need to rinse it as thoroughly, if at all. I have heard of liveaboard dive guides going for months without rinsing their kit with no problems. So I guess if you are diving three times a day, even shore based diving, then your kit won’t be drying out so rinsing is not as crucial and lots of water can be saved this way. For cameras, computers etc a rinse in fresh water is still probably a good idea, I normally put them in the sink and rinse them all off in one go, trying to save as much water as possible.
If you are going on a diving holiday chances are you may be taking showers after dives. Think about whether you need to spend more than 5 minutes rinsing off, especially if you know you are going to be in the water again that afternoon or for an evening night dive. When I was conducting research for my water report I talked to some dive resorts who were worried about their levels of water consumption because their guests were taking an average of 3 showers a day.
By this I mean thinking about what shampoo, shower gels etc that you use – this is particularly important in really environmentally sensitive areas, often anything that drains away from the shower or bath goes straight into the sea, so the fewer nasty chemicals we use the better. Use products that are biodegradable for example Lush products use natural ingredients and use as few synthetics as possible, which means they have less impact on the environment when they drain away. Try to choose a hotel/resort which has an environmental policy and has water saving measures in place for example, re-use of grey water to water plants, and sound water treatment facilities.
Divers know they should keep well hydrated for diving, so this often means getting through lots of bottled water. Its not always possible to drink the local water either so this cuts down the options. Ask if there is filtered water available to refill bottles or if there is somewhere to recycle your plastic bottles.
Easy tips for saving water:
- Turn off the tap when you are brushing your teeth – this can save up to 5 litres a minute.
- Follow guidelines provided by hotel about changing towels and sheets in order to save water and energy
- 50 litres can be saved by taking a shower instead of a bath, the shorter the shower the better. Remember in island resorts such as the Maldives all the water has to be treated on the island, so it is very expensive and should not be wasted.
- If a tap is dripping report it to the staff – dripping taps can waste as much as 90 litres a week
So we can all adapt our behaviour a bit to save water. No one should waste water but this is even truer in countries where the competition for water resources is high due to water scarcity.