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Changing geographies of water-related consumption: residential swimming pools in suburban Barcelona

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Swimming pools constitute an important part of the expanding suburban landscapes of many cities of southern Europe. Yet we know relatively little about their characteristics and especially about whether or not they capture a substantial part of urban water for the benefit of a few that could be used for other more essential tasks, especially in periods of scarcity. In this paper, taking the metropolitan region of Barcelona as a case study, we estimate the number of residential (private) swimming pools in this area, their characteristics and their water consumption. Our analysis is set against the context of important changes in the nature of the urbanisation process in Barcelona and in other southern European cities, namely the expansion of low-density growth and with this the expansion of outdoor water uses such as gardens planted with turf grass and swimming pools. However, results do not seem to support the assumption that swimming pools take a substantial part of the domestic water resources of the region or that they are a luxury affordable only by the very rich. Swimming pools represent little over 1 per cent of total domestic water consumption of the Barcelona region and they can be found in both higher and lower income municipalities. Nevertheless, swimming pools tend to be more often found in richer municipalities, which are also those observing higher per capita water consumption.

Keywords: Barcelona; southern Europe; swimming pools; urbanisation; water consumption

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Agència d'Ecologia Urbana, 08003 Barcelona, Spain 2: Institut d'Estudis Regionals i Metropolitans, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain 3: Departament de Geografia and Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2011


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