Denpasar: Bali’s natural fresh water aquifers are at record lows of 20% or less and researchers now predict the island faces ecological crisis before 2020 if the situation is not reversed.
“Water is life… the need and utilization of ground water is increasing, while the need to recharge water into the soil is being underestimated,” said Dr. Lilik Sudiajeng, University Politknik Negeri Bali (PNB) Professor of Civil Engineering and head of research.
Protecting Bali water
A team of engineering and hydrology experts have announced Penyelamatan Air Tanah Bali / Bali Water Protection Program (BWP) – a solution to help restore island aquifers before Bali reaches a crisis emergency.
A co-initiative of IDEP Foundation and University Politknik Negeri Bali, the potential solution is a collaborative community project that calls on all industry sectors and members of the public for support to assist reversal of the water crisis, following a worldwide assessment of rapid aquifer recharge systems for emergency conditions on Bali.
Now at only 15-20 % of water aquifers capacity remaining, the Bali water mitigation program was launched following confirmation of the aquifer level crisis by Indonesian Geologists Association (IAGI) members at Bali Provincial Administration during a “Management of Groundwater in Bali Province” seminar in Denpasar on 25 April.
Demand, avoiding increased saltwater into the aquifers
High demands for fresh water from Bali’s densely populated urban and tourism areas, has seen water supplies diverted from vital agricultural areas to tourist precincts in the south that threatens the island’s future food security, UNESCO world-heritage rice fields, traditional Balinese culture and quality of life.
“Coastal areas where aquifers continue to be over-exploited will suffer further leakage of salt water into groundwater, which is forever non-reversible, meaning total dependence on expensive desalination plants to treat seawater for Bali residential, agriculture and tourism water supplies,” says PNB researcher of Civil Engineering, Ida Bagus Putu Bintana.
Bali is not alone in this worldwide water crisis with reports of emergency drought dilemmas now emerging around the globe from Brazil, California, Australia, Africa, China and across Asia.
The 2025 vision for water in Southeast Asia was initially defined in the ASEAN Long Term Strategic Plan for Water Resources Management endorsed by ASEAN Environment Ministers in 2002, with strong plans of action recommended by 2015. Reports from United Nations agencies now suggest immediate action be taken to ensure sustainable water supplies into the future.
Tourism impact on global sustainable water supplies is of particular concern with headlines far and wide, including Bali’s main tourism rival on the Thai island of Phuket where relentless record numbers of tourists and unchecked tourism development has all but exterminated local agriculture leaving the island to import water from the mainland for local consumption each dry season.
“We should not wait until everything breaks,” exclaimed Phuket father of tourism Wichit Na Ranong at a September 2014 industry forum to address the tourist island’s chaotic lack of direction and woeful state of the environment resulting from unplanned tourism development.
“We have to be ready for some pain,” he implored, holding a mirror to the same situation Bali now faces, stating “everyone is pursuing his or her own interests without regard to their effect on others, that the authorities are reactive rather than proactive”.
The difference is Bali academics and research organisations are not waiting any longer and insist the Bali Water Protection Program must be supported to avoid a crisis. The pilot program, at a cost of less than US1m (IDR 13bill), will commence operation on funding and addresses the depletion of aquifers with 136 rainwater gravity-fed well systems strategically located in 13 pre-identified intervention areas across Bali and on selected provincial islands.
Based on successful systems in several drought-stricken areas in India, the aquifer recharge model was the technique chosen by international and Bali academic teams for rapid results in successfully restoring and raising water levels within 3 to 5 years in areas suffering fresh water crisis and threats of salt water intrusion.
Competition for water resources in Bali from tourism stakeholders, urban consumption, bottled water corporations, and agriculture – particularly rice farmers – will continue with water availability diminishing by the year.
“I cannot sleep because of worrying about water for our rice field. This is something we never had to think about [before]. At least for the last eight years we have had less water so that every night my husband has to stay in the rice field… because [the water] gets stolen by other farmers,” explained a Balinese farmer in a 2012 report by UK research organisation Tourism Concern.
Presenting research findings on Bali’s water crisis to global tourism forums such as ITB Berlin and world media since 2012, Tourism Concern advocate? and University of West Bristol academic Stroma Cole – who lived and studied in Indonesia for 12 years – alongside Bali’s expert tourism academics urges the Bali authorities and tourism industry to take action, noting persistent calls for an island development masterplan continues to go unheeded, despite Bali government acknowledging need to review water management before crisis point was reached in 2015.
Urgent awareness needed
“I feel a further area that also requires attention is education and awareness in the tourism industry plus funding from them, given they are such huge users of water on Bali,” said Ms Cole, expert tourism author of “The political ecology of water and tourism in Bali: A looming crisis” and many other research papers.
With over 77 000 registered hotel rooms, plus online booking platforms promoting thousands of Bali villas for rent – and recent announcement by Bali Governor Pastika of increasing tourist targets to 30 million by 2029 – the carrying capacity of the island is already overflowing and “sustainability of Bali’s water has now passed tipping point”.
“This rescue program cannot be carried out by one organization alone, all must cooperate – including government, industry and general public for water rescue in this land,” said Dr Lilik Sudiajeng.
“At the end of the day, we are facing a choice – No water, no Bali – the island has very few years of fresh water left and either we want to depend on expensive technologies such as reverse osmosis for our water or allow Bali’s future generations to enjoy the natural water bountifulness of its parents – it’s as simple as that. Our program has the real opportunity to impulse action toward long-term freshwater resilience and good governance” added BWP research advisory Ms Florence Cattin.
Program organisers – IDEP Foundation and University Politknik Negeri Bali – invite support from civic and tourism industry leaders to ensure success of the Bali Water Protection Program and expansion of the system to other dry areas at risk and protect regional water and food security.
Bali fresh water will run out by 2020 – demand is exceeding supply!
*75-80% of Bali’s watersheds now declared dry – water table has dropped over 50 m in less than 10 years – *according to 2015 government figures
Fresh water wells are drying up – or poisoned by salt water intrusion, especially tourism areas of South Bali
Lake Buyan – second largest natural freshwater reserve – dropped 5 m by 2012 – with Bali in drought, levels continue to drop
Endangered: Water & food security, UNESCO world-heritage rice fields, Balinese culture, quality of life.
Saltwater Intrusion is a serious consequence caused by an imbalance of excessive withdrawal of freshwater compared to natural rate of replenishment
All Bali coastal aquifers are at risk of salt water intrusion – a permanent ecological impact – Forever non-reversible!
Bali Water Protection Program (BWP)- has assessed a rapid method of Aquifer Recharge system, an effective mitigation solution for water crisis conditions on Bali
Cost is less than US1m, to commence operation? with 132 rainwater gravity-fed well systems, located in 13 intervention areas, pre-identified on Bali & sister islands
Rapid results in restoring water levels in areas suffering fresh water crisis and threats of salt water intrusion
How to help
Support is needed by all residents, communities and visitors to Bali to help raise awareness of Bali water crisis and assist with fundraising – with as little as US$1 donation from just 10% of residents and annual tourist visitors the program will be fully funded to save Bali water.
For more information & how to support Bali Water Protection Program (BWP): -www.idepfoundation.org/bwp/summary.
To donate by Paypal: email@example.com
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