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An assessment of water poverty in urban areas of the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Case studies in the metropolitan area of Barcelona and Alicante and Murcia

Together with energy poverty but not as well-known as the latter, water poverty affects an increasing number of households in Spain that may be deprived of a basic good such as water. In the context of developed countries, water poverty appears not so much as a problem of access as one of affordability or ability to pay the bills, with the consequent result of possible cut-offs in supply. In Spain, water poverty appears significantly as one result of the economic crisis of 2008 and its devastating effects on the well-being of many households, combined with sharp increases in water prices and taxes.

However, this project assumes that water poverty is not only an economic problem but covers several dimensions intersecting in vulnerable households (gender, geographical origin, political power, etc.). Likewise, water poverty is also characterized by multiple causalities also showing the interaction of economic, demographic, political and social factors. Finally, responses to water poverty from those affected, as well as from institutions, water services companies and NGOs may reveal different strategies of coping which need systematic assessment if they are to constitute the basis for policies addressed to mitigate or solve the problem.

The project proposes first of all to focus on the economic dimension in order to estimate in quantitative terms thresholds of water poverty in households to move then to the characterization of other dimensions as well as to the analysis of the intersection of vulnerability factors in households and finally, to the analysis of adaptation strategies by households, institutions, companies and civil society groups. The study will take place in the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona and the municipalities of Alicante and Murcia. The selection is due to the significant magnitude of the problem in these urban agglomerations as well as to the experience of the research team in the management of water resources in these areas.

The study aims at increasing the understanding of water poverty in the context of Spain and use the knowledge acquired to advice in the design of policies able to offer viable options for vulnerable households.

Interuniversity Institute of Geography (Alicante)


Universidad de Alicante
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03080 Alicante

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