Water Rich

Water Rich

Belize is rich with water resources. With approximately 35 major rivers, we have surface water resources and groundwater availability. Digging for water does not create the same excitement as digging for gold or other minerals, but it should. Water is a hot commodity and its value is often undervalued in the decision making process. Let’s consider why that is. The Earth is called the ‘water planet’ because approximately 71 percent of its surface is covered in water; however, most of that is ocean. Just about three percent of the Earth’s water is freshwater and of that, only 0.3 percent is in liquid form found in rivers, lakes, and ponds. Some freshwater can be found deep under the ground and the rest of it is locked up in glaciers and icecaps. In other words, most of the water on the ‘water planet’, is either not safe for human consumption or not easily accessible. The Earth now has eight billion people and counting. That is a lot of people who need fresh water, so it goes without saying that fresh water has tremendous value. According to the United Nations (UN), water is a finite resource and water scarcity is a growing problem on every continent.  Population growth, climate change, and water mismanagement contribute to water scarcity. When we consider all of that, the value of Belize’s water resources accumulates. We are water-rich but we cannot afford to become water spend-drifts.

All of Belizeans, Belizean businesses, and local industries have a stake in water management. Water is consumed by everyone. The tourism industry is uniquely associated with water since most tourism activities are water related. What is a resort without a big swimming pool or a vacation without soapy baths and long showers? Unlike other major sectors, the tourism industry has stakes in both fresh and saltwater ecosystems. Visitors enjoy hiking to our waterfalls, river rafting, river tours, snorkelling, SCUBA diving, paddling boarding, kayaking, and fishing of course- the list goes on. Water and water activities are important components within the Belize tourism product so ensuring their sustainability is paramount. Overall, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) has a mission to ensure sustainable development and it has done specific work to protect water. The BTB recently partnered with the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) to boost sustainable tourism in protected areas which include water reserves.  It has worked along with the International Development Bank (IDB) to focus on sustainable practices for expanding access to drinking water, and it is working with conservation organizations to protect Belize’s coral reefs. Belize has about 39 identifiable watersheds apart from our 180-mile-long Barrier Reef. But, let’s focus on the water that we can drink. Thankfully, Belize has a national policy and managing authority that helps to ensure that we remain liquid.

The National Hydrological Service (NHS) is responsible for studying and managing all of Belize’s precious watersheds. The national water policy is enforced by the NHS.  If you are not familiar with it, let’s just say you can’t just go digging around to extract water from any of those 39 watersheds. There is a license requirement for that. This policy is important because Belize’s population is growing and so is the demand for water resources. When a country has a population higher than its own water resources can supply, it is called “water stress”. In 2022, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) collaborated with the NHS to launch its first ever fund and strategic plan to integrate water resource management service in Belize. Let’s hope and do our part to ensure that our water remains rich and never stressed.

Chat again later.

Jasmine Anderson

For the Belize Tourism Board