Scotland's industrial water use: understanding recent changes and examining the future

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Future climate scenarios predict significant changes in the availability of water resources at global and regional scales. Knowledge of the possible economic consequences of this are limited by a shortage of data linking economic activity with physical water use. Matching a unique premise-level dataset to economic indicators at industrial/sector level, this paper undertakes a decomposition of changes in industrial water demand for Scotland between 2012 and 2016. Results highlight the importance of taking a sectoral approach, as changes in sectoral water intensity are significant. Furthermore, changes in the structure of the economy, i.e. a move away from water-intensive industries, highlight further reductions in overall water consumption. By considering future scenarios for Scottish water resources, this paper identifies key multi-disciplinary research challenges to address the major obstacles in developing a climate-ready water policy, which also captures the potential economic opportunities for Scotland from an awareness of the role of water in the economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Early online date30 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2020


  • industrial water use
  • index decomposition analysis
  • economy-wide analysis
  • Scotland

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