Tourist development and wastewater treatment in the Spanish Mediterranean coast: The Costa Brava case study

The Costa Brava (Girona, Spain) is one of the pioneering regions along the Spanish Mediterranean coast in terms of wastewater treatment. Since the 1950s, the water quality in swimming areas has been affected by the ongoing tourist development. However, at the same time, this issue has motivated the implementation of wastewater treatment systems that, otherwise, would have been delayed. With that mission, the Costa Brava Consortium (CCB) was created in 1971. The CCB is a public institution formed by all the municipalities along the coast of Girona, the head of Girona province and the watershed authority (formerly called the Eastern Pyrenees Hydrographical Confederation). Taking a conceptual approach derived from the Political Ecology of Tourism, the aim of this study is to explore the close relationship among the tourism boom, the economic and technologic investments related to wastewater management, and the improvement of environmental quality of the Costa Brava swimming areas. We believe that the tourist sector has forced public administrations to minimize the environmental impact derived from tourist activities. In fact, wastewater treatment has contributed to achieve improved and optimal swimming conditions in beaches, the most valuable resource for sun and sand tourist sector. The increasingly strict environmental regulations issued at European level have an important role in the discursive legitimation of high public expenses. Nevertheless, water-related management costs have been progressively financed by tax-payers, under pretexts of economic crisis or limited public budget. In addition, private capital is considered as the only way to maintain present infrastructures and to invest in new ones ​
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