Socio-hydrology of the water-tourism nexus: How (ground)water and tourists interact on Krk Island, Croatia
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector continues to grow worldwide. Tourists temporally relocate their consumption habits from from one place to the next and so do the environmental implications travel across the globe. While tourist destinations benefit from increased income and economic development, they often share similar challenges with respect to environmental threats. Water management is one of these challenges as the seasonal fluctuation of the number of people in one place induces a high variability in water demands. Alongside technical requirements and potential impacts from climate change, dynamic tourism development is a critical threat to a save water supply system. This is specifically true for the Mediterranean region and Croatia in particular.
In this study, we explore the evolution of the Water-Tourism Nexus on the Island of Krk to identify central feedback mechanisms. As part of a larger inter- and transdisciplinary research project, we build our analysis on participatory modeling and data analysis. We conducted interviews with stakeholders from multiple sectors (water supply, administration, tourism, spatial planning and research) to construct ‘perception graphs’ to understand key drivers of water tourism interactions. In addition, we analyzed daily water demand data and linked this to independent variables of meteorological and socioeconomic parameters. Based on this broad data basis, we constructed causal loop diagrams of positive and negative feedback loops to understand and depict the processes that control the Water-Tourism Nexus on Krk Island from a socio-hydrology perspective.
Our investigations show that classic system archetypes can be applied. On the one hand, the ‘demand-supply-cycle’ well reproduces the inherent growth in tourist numbers with an accompanying expansion of the water infrastructure by even using a long-distance water transfer scheme from the mainland. The ‘pendulum swing’ narrative on the other hand is a key balancing factor based on water prices and accommodation costs that may prevent the system from overshooting.
The results help to conceptualize the key driving factors of the Water-Tourism Nexus on Krk Island and help to identify critical processes to adapt the system’s behavior in a certain way. We thus contribute to the emerging body of literature from socio-hydrology to explore human-water interactions and we consider the Water-Tourism Nexus as one of the most challenging ones due to its strong potential for overuse of local water resources.