Exploring the Link between Ecotourism Activities and Surface Water Quality: Using Water Quality as a Sustainability Indicator

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ecotourism, water quality, sustainability, complex system, STELLA®


The fundamentals behind ecotourism include poverty reduction, revenue generation and sustainable development. For the most part, it is assumed that this type of tourism will engage in activities that are sustainable. Various international certifications help to identify tourism destinations with reduced environmental impact, mainly through biodiversity counting and water and energy efficiency audits. Substantial measurements on water quality parameters have not been incorporated into certification procedures and questions remain on the impact of the watershed’s ecotourism activities, inclusive of native populations and visitors alike, on surface water quality. This paper presents a framework for integrating water quality as an indicator that can inform sustainable management of ecotourism facilities. Research at two (2) field sites, Greencastle in Jamaica and Iwokrama in Guyana, are used to discuss the framework. In the rural and often remote areas where ecotourism activities occur, surface water is often utilised for multiple purposes throughout the surrounding community and is vital for several indigenous flora and fauna. The decision as to parameters to monitor was made in conjunction with published literature on monitoring needs for surface water based on intended water use as well as cost and practicality factors. The actual sampling sites to be utilised in the study were chosen during a reconnaissance visit to each site where background monitoring was conducted and commenced the sampling regimen. It is expected that once proper monitoring takes place, longitudinally changes in land use, population and visitation can be used to correlate with the water quality results which can be modeled in STELLA®. Such a tool has great potential to being of benefit to decision makers, ecotourism site managers and planners in attempting to attain more sustainable operations.

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The Journal of the Association of Professional Engineers of Trinidad and Tobago, v. 38, issue 1, p. 76-87