New study: The water footprint of tourism in Spain - and related work on water and tourism

A new study by Cazcarro, Hoekstra and Sánchez Chóliz in the journal 'Tourism Management' sheds light on the water footprint of tourism in Spain. The results are based on process analysis and input-output (IO) analysis. The authors evaluated the virtual (both blue and green consumed) water trade of agricultural and industrial products, but also of services, especially through tourism, for Spain, where more than 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP) derives from this activity. The authors used domestic and import disaggregated tables in the agro-alimentary activities, based mainly on national agrarian, industrial, services and trade statistics. In order to obtain import coefficients, water data and IO tables of the main trade partners were used to reproduce the technology of these economies. Results show that 16% of the Spanish exports are due to foreign tourism, thus the water footprint of foreign tourism in Spain is 3.7 cubic-km. Finally, they compared reductions in total tourism expenditure and the domestic and global water footprint of tourism using four scenarios.

Here is the reference:

Cazcarro, I., Hoekstra, A.Y. and Sánchez Chóliz, J. (2014) The water footprint of tourism in Spain, Tourism Management, 40: 90-101.

And the download link for the study:

There is an interesting review article by Gössling et al. (2012) on the subject, which reviews direct freshwater consumption in tourism from both quantitative and qualitative viewpoints to assess the current water demand of the tourism sector and to identify current and future management challenges. The article concludes that even though tourism increases global water consumption, direct tourism-relatedwater use is considerably less than 1% of global consumption, and will not become significant even if the sector continues to grow at anticipated rates of around 4% per year (international tourist arrivals). The situation differs at the regional level because tourism concentrates traveller flows in time and space, and often-in dry destinations where water resources are limited. Furthermore, the understanding of tourism's indirect water requirements, including the production of food, building materials and energy, remains inadequately understood, but is likely to be more substantial than direct water use. The article concludes that with expected changes in global precipitation patterns due to climate change, it is advisable in particular for already water scarce destinations to engage in proactive water management. Recommendations for managing tourism's water footprint are made (text from the abstract of the work by Gössling et al., 2012).

This review article can be accessed here:

and the full reference:

Stefan Gössling, Paul Peeters, C. Michael Hall, Jean-Paul Ceron, Ghislain Dubois, La Vergne Lehmann, Daniel Scott, Tourism and water use: Supply, demand, and security. An international review, Tourism Management, Volume 33, Issue 1, February 2012, Pages 1-15, ISSN 0261-5177,

A very interesting report by TourismConcern sheds light on the hotspot issue:

Noble, R., Smith, P. and Pattullo, P. (eds), 2012. Water equity in tourism : a human right, a global responsibility. London, UK, Tourism Concern. 31 p.

and the link to the report:

Tourism Concern is calling on the international tourism industry, destination governments and tourists to urgently address this problem of "massive inequality" - the tourists can use lots of water, the locals can not. Their report offers nine Principles of Water Equity in Tourism for governments, the tourism sector and civil society, as well as detailed recommendations for each set of stakeholders.

It would be interesting to read about other studies that investigate the water consumption in the tourism sector. Please post any you may know of.