A growing influx of tourists is to blame for the drought threatening food security, culture and way of life on the Indonesian island.
An island paradise known for its stunning beaches, lush rice fields, warm hospitality and delicious food, Bali received a total of 16 million tourist visits in 2018.
While this has done wonders for the local economy, it’s put enormous strain on its natural resources.
As Bali eagerly awaits its delayed wet season, which usually runs from October to April, more than half of its rivers – 260 out of 400 – have run dry.
Lake Buyan, the island’s largest water reserve has dropped 3.5 metres, according to Al-Jazeera.
As a result of the falling water table, saltwater intrusion is being observed in many areas across the island, especially in the south.
The blame has fallen on Bali’s tourism industry, which uses around 65% of the island’s water, according to the Indonesian non-government organisation IDEP Foundation.
Water has had to be diverted from rural to urbanised areas to serve the needs of these tourists.
A single tourist at a resort in Bali uses between 2,000–4,000 litres of water every day, according to local estimates.
This is on top of the massive volumes of water used to fill resort swimming pools and maintain gardens and golf courses enjoyed by tourists, as well as in construction of new infrastructure.
“I believe Bali is in real danger,” local journalist Anton Muhajir, who has been covering Bali’s water crisis, told Al-Jazeera.
“Some of my friends have had to move from their ancestral homes in Denpasar because the water in their wells has turned salty.
“At Jatiluwih, where thousands of tourists go each day to see the most beautiful rice terraces of Bali, farmers are using plastic pipes to pump in water they have to buy in the south because the springs in the mountains are drying up.”
“And now we have drought, not just in Bali but in nearly every province in Indonesia.”
If the drought continues, Bali’s usually lush rice paddies will dry out, and many of its villages won’t have enough water for basic cooking and cleaning.
Locals say government-issued water trucks only come by sporadically.
Now more than ever, Bali is urging visitors to be responsible and watch their water usage.