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Bitter Wages of Bali's Bad Development

Salt Water Intrusion into Baliís Water Table Becoming More Acute

(1/18/2013) Bali is in the midst of a severe water crisis. Since 1995, the Ministry of the Environment has predicted that Bali would soon experience a water deficit of 1 billion cubic meters of water per year growing to 27.6 billion cubic meters by 2015. Moreover, the Center for the Study of Sustainability at Udayana University predicts Bali will soon have a shortfall of clean water approaching 1,500 liters per second.

As reported by The Bali Post, the chairman of the Bali Friends of the Earth (WALHI), Wayan “Gendo” Suardana, has urged regional leaders, both on the provincial and regency/municipality level, to halt any steps to privatize the control and distribution of fresh water in order to ensure that water is distributed in a fair and just manner to meet the essential needs of the island’s people.

“Gendo's” call is connected from the increasing number of private companies in Bali utilizing subterranean water sources as part of their business. In addition to companies selling bottled water, these water resources are being tapped into by hundreds of other companies in Bali.

The rapid increase in the development of tourism accommodation in Bali, such as villas, has resulted in a rapid increase in demand for fresh water. WALHI is concerned that, unless the proliferation of villas is brought under control, the island’s carrying capacity in terms of fresh water supplies will be surpassed by villas tapping into subterranean water reservoirs to fill their swimming pools.

The heavy use of water from subterranean water supplies is resulting in severe salt-water intrusion of the water table. Nyoman Sunarta, a lecturer in tourism at Bali’s Udayana University, said on Monday, January 14, 2013, blamed the growing number of villas in South Bali, such as in North Kuta and primarily in Kerobokan Kelod, Kerobokan Kaja and Canggu for the growing water problem.. Adding, “the worst proliferation in villas is taking place in Kerobokan Kelod.”

According to Sunarta, the villas being built in Bali need large amounts of fresh water for the use of their guests and to fill swimming pools. On the average, he estimates a villa requires 2,250-2,500 liters of fresh water per room per day. He explained: “Villas need much more water that starred hotels. If a starred hotel needs 1,500 liters of water per room per day, a villa can require 2,250 liters per room per day. If the development of villas is not put under control, this will prove dangerous to Bali’s water sustainability and the increasingly critical water supply.”

Villas tend to use ground water because it is cheaper than purchasing water from the water utility board. If the reservoir of fresh water is reduced, seawater intrudes into the water table. Sunarta said: “I am not surprised if saltwater intrusion has reached Sanglah (downtown Denpasar), because the use of fresh water is so intense. What’s more, the development of hotels and villas using subterranean water has increased dramatically over the last ten years.”

Continuing, Sunarta said uncontrolled villa development is also polluting water supplies in agricultural areas and disturbing agricultural outputs.

He said there is a need for political will on the government’s part to control villa development in Bali. He accused many villas of illegally tapping into subterranean water supplies and then failing to pay taxes and water use charges.

The Bali Villa Association (BVA) also accuses the illegal villa sector of tapping into the subterranean water supply while failing to pay a contribution to badly needed tax revenues.