Based on research, including interviews with 100 foreign tours in 2010, as many as 90% of those interviewed assumed that Bali still has abundant supplies of fresh water. 50% of those interviewed expressed surprise when informed of Bali’s water crisis. 68% of those informed of the crisis, pledged to try to conserve water if asked to do so by hotels in Bali, and 36% said they would willingly pay an environmental tax levy.
Photo: Antara/Rudi Mulya
www.mongabay.co.id recently reported on Bali’s worsening water crisis in an article by Luh De Suriyani entitled ‘Why is Bali Threatened with a Water Crisis?”
In that article, Dr. Stroma Cole, a senior lecturer in Geography and Environmental Management from the University of The West of England, said on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at a seminar on Bali’s water crisis that “Tourism is Killing People.”
Cole concluded that the peak of the coming water crisis in Bali would take place between 2020-2025 if definite steps were not taken to enhance consciousness, conservation and policy coordination. Tourism, Cole warned, can only take place in areas with sufficient water supplies.
In 2010, the United Nations declared that water and sanitation are basic human rights. Cole, together with Wiwik DA of Udayana University, said that “the cost of water should not represent more than 4% of personal income, should be safe from contamination, and be in ready supply.”
Both Cole and Wiwik interviewed 39 leading stakeholders in Bali. A number of complex factors were identified as worsening the Island’s water crisis.
First, is pressure brought by Bali’s tourism industry, mostly comprised of accommodation providers such as hotels and villas that are tapping subterranean water supplies with deep wells of as much as 60 meters. Wells dug by local residents that are between 10 and 20 meters deep are now already largely dry.
Second, most of those responding in interviews composed of small entrepreneurs admitted they were not paying the required tax on well water. The most common defense offered was that well owners felt they were compensating the government by paying for the electricity needed to pump the water above ground. Cole also found a large amount of development in “green zones” that supposed to be free of any construction activity.
Third, many farmers are deciding to sell their agricultural tracts of land that are needed as water catchment areas due to the burden of increasing property tax rates fed by rising property values. Unfair tax structures, and the high cost of fertilizers and pesticides have become problematic to Bali’s agriculturalists.
Fourth, according to Cole, is a lack of coordination among those responsible for the Bali’s water supply. Cole counts 11 agencies involved in water police. “Can everyone sit down together and solve the problem? (The response is) ‘That’s not our problem, it’s someone else’s responsibility.’ No one wants to take responsibility (for the water crisis),” complains Cole.
Fifth, Cole emphasized that conservation awareness by the public and in policy formulation is lacking. Cole said that as a tropical nation, waste water and sewage must be managed, adding: “In England, I don’t know for sure, but the water in water pipes has been passed through the urininary tract seven times.”
Cole insists that without public awareness and action the consequence of continued exploitation of surface water from rivers, worsening saltwater intrusion into Bali’s water table, diminishing water quality, an increase of 25% in the cost of water over the past three years, and the diversion or farm lands to other uses – will all lead to eventual conflicts over water.
Is Bali’s tourism industry exploiting Bali’s water supply? The chairman of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI-Bali), Tjokoda Artha Ardhana Sukawati (“Cok Ace”) is unable to confirm a case of exploitation, but did share data on the use of water and electricity by the tourism sector.
Data provided by the Bali Hotel Association (BHA) and Howarth HTL links the star rating of hotels with electricity and water consumption. In other words, the more expensive a hotel the higher per capita use of power and water. They estimate that a hotel with a tariff of US$400 per night consumes 4 tons (4,000 liters) per guest per day. This is substantially higher than the assumed per capita daily use of 183 liters. Data for hotels costing US$59 per day is put at 1 ton (1,000 liters) per guest per day.
The National Statistics Center (BPS) estimates Bali’s population in 2014 stood at 4.1 million residents. If each person consumes 183 liters of water per day, that translates into a daily water demand of 750 million liters of water per day (750,000 tons).
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