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Every Drop Counts: Why We Salvage Dirty Water

One of the first big moves we made after starting the Spice Trail, is setting up a blackwater recycling system. Why? Because, the East Coast where we are based, is in the dry zone of Sri Lanka—where water is absolutely precious. The water in Arugam Bay is mainly drawn from wells and the city supply. At the Spice Trail, 100% of our water consumption is drawn from wells. That’s great? Not if you don’t approach it sustainably, with an understanding of the sources that supply the wells, and the natural ecosystems that depend on them. The wells in Arugam Bay are filled from natural springs connected to Lahugala, Kitulana, and Sengamuwa tanks located about twelve kilometers southwest of Pottuvil, in the Heda Oya basin. These three small tanks have become the primary water source not only to the steadily growing human population of the area, but also to many animals, including the fleets of pelicans and the herds of elephants that have become iconic images of East Coast beauty. These tanks are also the home to many freshwater fish and amphibians with several of them, like Clarias brachysoma and Bufo athukoralei, being endemic to Sri Lanka. With an annual rainfall of approximately 1,650mm, there’s not much to go around— especially when you throw in the tourism and hospitality industry that has several hundred-thousands passing through within the average travel season. With the Spice Trail, we wanted to help resolve the problem instead of becoming part of it.

When we chose our blackwater recycling system, we wanted it to be one that is sustainable both environmentally and economically. Being responsible should and could make business sense. We chose to work with Klaro Lanka—a consultant specialist of Sri Lanka’s Central Environmental Authority. We liked that they were already engaged in designing and creating wastewater treatment solutions throughout the island in collaboration with government institutes. But, where we really had eye-to-eye with Klaro is with how they believed that water sustainability should be part of Sri Lanka’s development agenda—something that the Spice Trail really believes in.

The system that we ended up setting at here treats up to 13,500 litres a day, and has zero chemical usage, electrical parts or mechanical system involved in the process, which makes it very energy efficient. Right on with our philosophy of what’s good for the planet being good for business.

When you stay at the Spice Trail, you will notice a part of our story salvaging blackwater being told in our bathrooms. Many of our guests have commented on this, and we’ve found it really encouraging to see that at the end of the day, people do respect efforts taken to do the right thing. Right now, our blackwater recycling system allows us to stay off the city grid, and use water from nearby natural sources without putting unnecessary strain on them. Knowing this, now you can enjoy sitting in our mini-jungle-garden fed completely by recycled blackwater, even more.

Water sustainability is not just for the East Coast. Sri Lanka is a small island, positioned second in the 2019 Germanwatch Long-Term Climate Risk Index. The limited fresh water available here is as precious as it gets, and water sustainability is literally a matter of survival to Sri Lanka now. Nine hundred years ago, our King Parakramabahu I set out to harvest every single drop of water that fell from the sky before it went into the sea, giving patronage to some of the most impressive irrigation networks still seen here. This approach is what led to a thriving agrarian culture built around water sustainability. But, that was when we had leaders who made water sustainability a national priority; right now, it’s up to us. Here at the Spice Trail, we take that responsibility very seriously and try to do what we can to bring back the culture of water sustainability to Sri Lanka.

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