The energy intensity of water—‘energy (electricity)-for-water’—is calculated for Benidorm, a mass tourism resort in the Spanish Mediterranean coast, where the urban water cycle has evolved in response to a series of episodes of water stress. The analysis is based on primary data compiled from various actors involved in the urban water cycle encompassing water extraction, end uses, and wastewater treatment, including tertiary treatment. The results provide one of the first analyses of the relations between energy and water in a mass tourist center, which may be of potential interest for other tourist areas. It is estimated that a total of 109 GWh/year of electricity is required to operate the water cycle of Benidorm. About 4% of total energy use in Benidorm is dedicated to extracting, transporting, and treating water. The most energy-intensive stage is represented by end uses, which accounts for 20% of the total energy use in Benidorm when the energy required for water pumping and hot water use is considered. Additionally, energy intensity for water extraction was estimated for normal, wet, and two dry year scenarios. In comparison with the normal scenario, energy intensity is six times larger when desalinated water is incorporated during a dry year, whereas the emergency interbasin water transfer resulted in a more moderate increase in energy intensity. While treated wastewater and emergency water transfers appear to be a more convenient solution in energy terms, the strong impulse given to desalination in Spain is forcing local water authorities towards the use of a resource that is much more energy intensive, although, on the other hand, much less dependent on the vagaries of climate. In light of recent technological and managerial developments, the Benidorm case illuminates the challenges appearing in the analysis of the water-energy nexus, especially the fact that scarcity may be transferred from water to energy.
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