The Rise Of Drought Tourism
Over the last few years, prolonged drought conditions have been seen all over the world, from Europe to China and the US, with unprecedented heat waves driving record temperatures. Coupled with record low levels of rainfall, rivers have now been drying up, putting local communities at serious risk.
As average temperatures around the world continue to climb, drought is now a permanent part of the global landscape, with global warming increasing the risks in a variety of ways.
Firstly, higher temperatures mean that water will typically evaporate more quickly, which can lead to drier soils. Liquid water is also sapped from plant leaves and the soil amid higher temperatures, water that is then transpired into atmospheric water vapour, thus increasing ground-level drying.
But it’s not just the fact that higher temperatures help to drive drought conditions. They also make drought more intense because of increased evaporation, with scientists now identifying a clear link between global warming and droughts.
More severe drought
Drought severity does appear to be on the rise, as evidenced by the emergence of historical treasures all over the world, with drying rivers revealing all sorts of interesting and significant sights, sights that haven’t been seen in quite some time.
In 2022, for example, ancient Buddhist statues were unveiled in China as a result of the Yangtze River (the largest in Asia) experiencing rapid drops in water levels amid a record-breaking heatwave and drought.
The statues were found sat on top of a typically submerged island in the south-west Chongqing region of the country. It’s thought that these statues are around 600 years old, built during the Ming dynasty, which ruled between 1368 and 1644.
In Spain, meanwhile, the Dolmen of Guadalperal was recently exposed for only the fourth time since its initial discovery back in 1926. Also known as the Spanish stonehenge, it’s thought that these large prehistoric stones date back to 5000 BC.
And over in the US, drought conditions in Texas a few years ago saw parts of the Paluxy River dry up, revealing dinosaur prints left by the Acrocanthosaurus, a theropod that weighed seven tonnes and stood at 15 feet high, roaming the area some 113 million years ago.
Under more normal conditions, these prints would be filled in with sediment, helping to protect them from erosion and weathering.
Fast forward to 2024 and similar events are being seen, such as the emergence of an 11th-century church in the sunken Spanish village of Sant Roma de Sau, which was flooded 60 years ago to make the Sau reservoir that supplies Barcelona with much-needed water.
According to Euronews, under more normal conditions you’d only be able to see the top of the church’s three-storey tower popping up above the surface of the water, but now the entire building can be seen, with current water levels at just six per cent of capacity. The average for January is typically above 90 per cent.
Sights such as these are seemingly contributing to the rise of drought tourism, with people flocking to see these treasures for themselves.
No doubt it’s appealing to take advantage of low water levels, discovering and exploring cultural and historical sites that have previously been concealed from view… but it’s certainly worth noting that visiting these drought-stricken regions will put even more pressure on dwindling water resources.
Places like Spain now have water restrictions in place to help conserve supplies, which makes it tricky for the tourism industry in a very popular holiday destination.
When planning a trip, it’s perhaps advisable to check the guidance and advice provided by the authorities in your choice of destination before travelling so you can be assured of the situation and know you won’t be making issues worse.
Keeping abreast of any and all restrictions in place will help you stay on the right side of locals, who will also be adhering to the rules and regulations. It is unlikely that they will be appreciative of tourists coming in and doing as they please, while they follow sustainability guidelines.
Water, in particular, is a big concern for tourism, whether there are drought conditions to consider or otherwise, with additional pressure put on water resources that can result in local communities having to compete for the use of such essential supplies.
The tourism sector uses resources for the likes of swimming pools, golf courses, hotels, new developments and personal use by the tourists themselves, which can lead to shortages.
Depending on the destination, tourists may also consume more water than they might do at home if they find themselves in a hot country, one that may already be facing water stress and scarcity issues.
There are various ways in which you can be more sustainable when you travel, helping to reduce pressure on water resources in your chosen destination.
Bear in mind that peak tourism seasons typically take place during the hottest, driest months of the year, so you could consider going off-season and exploring when there are inevitably fewer people doing the same.
Much of the advice for reducing water consumption while away will be the same as if you were at home. Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, for example, helps to reduce waste, while having a very quick shower every few days rather than running a bath will also conserve supplies.
Not having your room cleaned unless it’s absolutely necessary will also drive down usage and consumption, as will not having towels and linens changed each day, reducing the amount of laundry the hotel has to do.
But perhaps one of the best ways to go about being a sustainable tourist is picking where to go wisely. If preliminary research shows that your destination is struggling with drought or another environmental issue, it may be more prudent to go elsewhere.
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