Taking a shower & the war for the blue gold

          Sources: 1) Chris Arsenault, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/06/2011622193147231653.html 2) Bangkok 2008, Hotel water flow study result analysis , by Daniel Koeppel of Daniel Koeppel Associates Co. Ltd.

          Bangkok’s hotel room portfolio is approximately 68’000 rooms, conservatively speaking. This is not counting the service apartments. The annual average occupancy is around 60%. One could state the fact that aprox. 15 Million hotel rooms are occupied annually, and he or she would not be so far off. 15’000’000. Remember this number if you continue to read on.

          Hotel rooms and Showers

          Every hotel room has a shower. But not every shower has the same waterflow. Waterflow is measured in litre per minute.

          Analyzing the results of a small independent study of water flow in down town Bangkok Hotels shines a light on the current treatment of the resource “Water” by business leaders.

          The average water flow (litre per minute) at showerheads of 26 hotels (mostly 5star and luxury hotels) lies at 16.5 litres per minute. (see Graph 1)

          Water flow at hotel shower heads, current & saving potentials

          Graph 1: Source: Waterflow study by author, 2008 Bangkok, 26 properties

          With a simple technical improvement the average water flow can be reduced by up to 38.9% to only 10,3 litres per minute. The cost of this technical improvement, (aka. Aerator) lies at below 15$ per piece and has a ROI of lower than 3 months.

          Readers can determine by him/herself how many minute their individual shower lasts. I further invite the reader to make a quick calculation on how much water can be saved. (Take the shower duration in minutes x 6.46 litres x 15’000’000). The result will undoubtedly be a large number. A number so large it is difficult to form a relation to it.

          So lets go back to small numbers.

          A very small number of hospitality business leaders are interested to apply above-mentioned improvement as long as the price of water is so low. The price of 1m3 water (1000 litres) lies at around 17 THB.

          I dare say that the ledger of water cost does receive very little scrutiny during the monthly P&L presentation.

          Bangkok’s hoteliers have had their water related warning, though. As a result of the floods of October & November 2011 many a hotelier suddenly saw him/herself confronted to manage water needs of his or her guests. Fortunately nothing serious happened, but the expenses of those preparations, respective the loss of revenue due to cancellations was and remains real.

          The consideration of water is handled careless. Fact it that one can continue to live without money, however without water a slow and agonizing death occurs after approximately 3 days. It is puzzling therefore that not more is done for the reduction of water usage.

          Of all the water on earth, 97 per cent is salt water and the remaining three per cent is fresh, with less than one per cent of the planet’s drinkable water readily accessible for direct human uses. Scarcity is defined as each person in an area having access to less than 1,000 cubic meters of water a year. (2730 litres of water per day to cover all water needs.)

          Proportional picture of all the water on the planet

          Proportional picture of all the water on the planet – its diameter would be aprox. 800 miles. Source: devildinosaur.blogspot.com

          In March, a report from the office of the US Director of National Intelligence said the risk of conflict would grow as water demand is set to outstrip sustainable current supplies by 40 per cent by 2030.

          The areas where water scarcity is the biggest problem are some of the same places where political conflicts are rife, leading to potentially explosive situations. Everyone agrees that this will have repercussions felt by business, irrespective of its involvement or location. Some experts believe the only documented case of a “water war” happened about 4,500 years ago, when the city-states of Lagash and Umma went to war in the Tigris-Euphrates basin.

          But Adel Darwish, a journalist and co-author of Water Wars: Coming Conflicts in the Middle East, says modern history has already seen at least two water wars. Senegal and Mauritania also fought a war starting in 1989 over grazing rights on the River Senegal. And Syria and Iraq have fought minor skirmishes over the Euphrates River.

          “I have [former Israeli prime minister] Ariel Sharon speaking on record saying the reason for going to war [against Arab armies] in 1967 was for water,” Darwish told Al Jazeera. Some analysts believe Israel continues to occupy the Golan heights, seized from Syria in 1967, due to issues of water control, while others think the occupation is about maintaining high ground in case of future conflicts.

          “These threats are real and they do raise serious national security concerns,” Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said after the report’s release.

          Internationally, 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations. By 2030, 47 per cent of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Environmental Outlook to 2030 report.

          Some analysts worry that wars of the future will be fought over blue gold, as thirsty people, opportunistic politicians and powerful corporations battle for dwindling resources.

          To which one of the three groups do you think you will belong? Or perhaps a bit more scary. To which of the three groups do you think you children will belong?

          Daniel Koeppel

          Daniel is an environmental sustainability specialist with a hospitality background. He is passionate in supporting visionary hotel companies wishing to increase their environmental sustainability know how and solutions. Contact us now for a non-committing assessment!

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