Smart Tourism Challenge: Smelly summers in the Mediterranean

Summer in the Mediterranean region is famous for high temperatures, dry heat and little rainfall. Unfortunately this can make things smelly.


Alex Mateo


5 min

TAGS Odour

Summer is approaching in the Mediterranean region.

Higher temperatures can cause an increase in episodes of bad odors in sewage, pumping and sewage networks. This is certainly an unpleasant experience for the sense of smell.

In regions with dry summers such as the Mediterranean zone or the Middle East, the scarcity of rainfall exacerbates odour generation. Its causes wastewater in sewers to flow at a slower pace towards treatment plants, or even remain stagnant in the sewage networks, resulting in an increase in the concentration of smelly sulfur-based compounds.

Effects of population increase in the Mediterranean region

Summer for the Mediterranean region also means a large influx of tourists during the summer months. This has two major effects on the region:

  1. The population in tourist destinations increases several times over, meaning that sewage treatment plants are often undersized for the population. The growth of these urban populations has led to residential zones being developed close to the buffer zones of existing treatment plants, generating a problem that did not previously exist.

  2. As a consequence of these effects there are a greater number of odour episodes in coastal regions that have a high tourist influx. This leads to an increase in complaints from citizens, tourists and workers. Events like this have a direct effect on the local economy and there’s now an increasing demand from cities for more information in real time about everything that affects the vacation quality of each tourist.

Communicating data insights while avoiding social media outbursts

Data insights are already providing city managers throughout the Mediterranean region with valuable insights. Data such as water quality of beaches, if there has been a toxic spill, the presence of jellyfish, or local air quality data are now being used as vital tools for improvement and communication to visiting tourists.

Furthermore, several cities are now providing this data in highly user-friendly apps to inform tourists of the status of conditions from when they land until they leave their destination.

Let’s go back to the bad smells. Social media can quickly become a platform for tourists to voice frustrations when they are impacted by bad smells coming from a local sewage treatment plants if odour isn’t immediately controlled, or they are at least informed that work is being done to solve the situation.

In just moments, multiple tourists could post on the networks about an episode that is "ruining" their vacations, which discredits that location as a good place to spend the summer.

Tourists are quick to use social media to voice frustrations.

There are numerous Mediterranean municipalities that are now developing plans to become Smart Tourist Destinations, with the strong support of public sector organisations such as SEGITTUR in Spain. On a larger scale, the European Union awards several cities with the European Capital of Smart Tourism in different individual categories.

Smart Tourism initiatives should include public utilities

The wastewater treatment industry (and the broader water industry in general) should not be left out of this scenario. Technology can provide early detection systems in terms of predicted or actual episodes of bad odors and give timely information to help mitigate their impacts. Insights like this could be used to advise the local population and avoid bad publicity for the city on social media. Public administrations and city managers should also make use of this type of technology and promote policies of open data and improved governance for their citizens and tourists.

Envirosuite is a leader in odour management in wastewater treatment plants and offers solutions that allow users to quickly identify the origin of incidents. Thanks to its complaints management portal, the population can register any odour episode and at the same time, the work team is provided with tools to easily manage such complaints.

Several Envirosuite solutions allow water utilities to detect odour sources quickly and plan ahead for periods of high risk.