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Water, a precious asset

Di Antonio Caneva, 11 Luglio 2003

You reach Palm Springs, California, through a barren landscape where ochre, brick and red are the dominating colours, interrupted by the green patches of enormous cacti. This is the desert around Palm Springs, and I had always wondered what show business celebrities and business magnates went to do there, until the day when I was in San Diego, California, and rented a car to go and check with my own eyes. As you approach the city, you first see some hesitant attempt to reclaim some green from the desert, and then the green gradually taking over, until it becomes a solid bright colour near the city. Numberless golf courses, designed with the purpose to develop the real-estate business, allow to enjoy the dry climate of the locality in a pleasant environment. The services you can find are top notch: you can steer a boat in an artificial lake at Hotel Marriot, for example, and eat excellent barbecued fillet steaks in the various restaurants created along its shore. All of this has so far been possible by tapping the great amount of water collected by the Colorado River. Now things are changing, with new regulations prohibiting any indiscriminate use of this resource. Water has been extracted from underground, through costly well drilling, but this, too, cannot go on forever, because as a result of drilling, land in the area is sinking 2.5 centimetres a year. Last year golfing helped to attract 3.5 million visitors, but now that water is ten times more expensive than in the past, what type of development can be expected for this area? Certainly not one that is not centred on water as its priority resource.
A few years ago I spoke with a friend who had worked at the Sheraton Hotel of Saana (Sudan), and he told me that since he had seen the kind of water that was recovered to be treated and recycled into the pipings, he had used it only just for showering and had taken to only drinking whiskey (a habit he has preserved). I remember the beginnings of Costa Smeralda, when the taps released a brown-coloured water coming from the Liscia dam, and it was not infrequent that a lizard carcass would also come out.
Water is the true challenge of the near future, which tourism will have to focus on. Gardens that require constant irrigation, for example, will have to be designed with greater care as part of projects utilising local plant species that naturally adjust to local water resources. When we look at Sardinia from the sea, it is disconcerting to see villas and hotels which – from the colour of their lawns – look more like landscapes of Ireland than Gallura. Tourism is a great water consumer, but there are many ways to save water as well: for instance by using showers instead of bathtubs, taps that mix air with water, and above all by carefully considering how we design our production processes, to avoid that a small sacrifice today be replaced by a drastic constraint tomorrow.

Translation of the Italian
editorial by Paola Praloran

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