Water | Stage 1

Corporate Office

Kick-start action your journey to becoming a good water steward


By the end of this stage you will have achieved the following outcomes from the Pathway Framework:

Policy is in place, initial measurements done and data collected.

  • Water consumption is measured and regular benchmarking is established.
  • Possible sources of pollution are assessed.
  • Initial water reduction targets have been set.
  • Possible water-related solutions and initiatives have been investigated, a long-term plan created and immediate solutions / initiatives have been implemented.
  • A linen reuse policy that requires hotel operators to develop and implement a linen reuse programme is in place [WTTC Hotel Sustainability Basics]



Setting up for success

Take ownership

Engage stakeholders

Set up a process to regularly engage with hotels, to understand challenges, identify priorities, inform them of central programmes and share solutions

Understand impact & dependencies

1. Review water impacts including consumption and potential sources of pollution from runoff and contaminants
2. Review dependencies relating to water
  • Examples include availability of freshwater, or access to unpolluted water sources for guests to enjoy (e.g. beaches, lakes).
  • Remember that your impacts may have an effect on dependencies. For example, if your properties consume a large amount of water, this may impact on the availability of water for the local area, including to your hotels.
3. Gather available data for water consumption for all sites
  • This can be tracked in a simple Excel tracker.
  • Request and track water data for individual hotels – meter readings or invoices can be a good source of this data.
  • If you centrally manage water contracts, you may be able to get consumption data from your supplier(s).
4. Check water data quality and engage stakeholders to make improvements
  • Review data for gaps and any figures which are much higher or lower than normal.
  • Cross-check unusual figures against other data sources e.g. meter readings, invoices, utility provider.
  • Engage with individual hotels to identify and improve areas with weak data reporting.
  • Engage with franchise partners to improve data access and quality.
5. Use HWMI to calculate and establish a baseline for water
  • If accurate data isn’t available use CHSB to estimate water.
  • Incorporate the HWMI methodology into corporate sustainability systems (where relevant) or use the free tool.
  • Record the current performance KPIs.
6. Use CHSB to compare water performance of hotels to relevant benchmarks
  • Set up a process to ensure this is done on a regular basis e.g. at least once a year.
7. Take stock of the initiatives you are currently doing/have done for water
  • You should consider:
    • How successful they are
    • If any challenges have emerged
    • Any learnings which might be useful for future initiatives
    • Opportunities to scale up/replicate the initiatives
  • Review what you have currently done for any gaps/ different areas which you might want to focus on.

Set targets

8. Set company targets, property-level targets for managed hotels, and suggest targets for franchised hotels, to reduce water consumption and pollution

Tips for setting targets:

  • Ensure they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART).
  • Consider what indicators you will use to measure your performance towards your targets. They can be qualitative or quantitative e.g. litres of water per occupied room
  • Ensure your objectives align with the key impacts you have identified.
  • Use existing best-case examples to help define short-term goals. E.g. practices within individual departments that could become standard for all.
  • Remember to consider baseline performance as a starting point and use benchmarking indexes (such as CHSB) to help determine achievable targets.
  • Where relevant, collaborate with individual hotels to ensure their targets align with brand objectives.
  • Think long-term targets but include interim milestones. Longer-term reduction targets (e.g. targets spanning 5 or 10 years) provide an overarching sense of direction. However, it’s important that regular (e.g. annual) milestones are set to help gauge continual progress.

Take action

9. Review available guidance to identify relevant actions which increase water efficiency and reduce pollution of water. This should consist of simple behavioural activities and low-cost technical options to be executed in the short-term (e.g. payback in 1 year or less) and a headline plan for longer-term initiatives. You should include a linen reuse programme offering guests the option to reuse linens rather than cleaning each day [WTTC Hotel Sustainability Basics]
  • Support branded hotels to develop their own action plans and inform them of any central programmes that they can participate in.
  • The Environmental Action Planner can help guide plans.
  • Criteria for brand-wide environmental certifications can also be useful and, if achieved, certifications can be used in communications with stakeholders.
Resource: Excel Utilities Tracker
10. Where held centrally, review contracts with water suppliers to see if a requirement to provide water data can be added
11. Review management and franchise contracts to see if a requirement to provide water data can be added
Resource: Environmental Management for Hotels (Section 2.5)
12. Determine financial and non-financial resources needed, create a business case and gather required resources
  • Calculate employee time (corporate and hotel-level) and funding needed for actions.
  • Find and cost further support in areas where your current team and external partners lack experience.
  • Review options for funding, including internal budgets and external investors/funding schemes. Consider allocating savings made through environmental initiatives to fund future initiatives.
  • Create a business case for actions and share with decision makers for approval. Section 2.5 of Environmental Management for Hotels can help to evaluate capital investment.
  • Achieve internal sign-off from executive board/equivalent senior authority.
  • Include time and funding in relevant budgets. Ensure CapEx and OpEx budgets and planning include fully costed measures.
  • The business case should include:
    • Financial investment
    • Expected savings
    • Payback period
    • Other potential benefits (e.g. guest satisfaction improvements, compliance with legislation).
13. Review procurement policies and make them more responsible by giving preference to items which are more water efficient
  • This could include things like:
    • Requirements for environmental criteria to be considered when selecting items to purchase.
    • Requirements for suppliers to meet certain environmental standards.
Resource: Environmental Management for Hotels (Section 1.6)
14. Inform employees about your water-related objectives and their role in achieving your targets
  • Include information such as what the issue is, what role the industry has and what actions they can take to help achieve objectives.
  • Create brand-appropriate education material to keep hotel teams engaged and informed.
  • Record evidence of staff involvement in the SMS (where applicable).

Reviewing & Reporting Progress

Monitor & Report

More from the Pathway

View our accompanying factsheets

Stage 2

Move on to Stage 2

Once you have completed Stage 1, you are ready to move on to Stage 2.