Total water requirements of passenger transport modes

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - australasia, place - urban, mode - rail, mode - car, planning - integration, planning - environmental impact


Embodied water, Virtual water, Road transport, Rail transport, Input-output analysis


With a growing urban population, it is crucial to maintain and develop environmentally friendly transport modes. However, while one of the most important indicators of environmental performance is water use, very few studies have quantified the total water requirements associated with different transport modes.

This study uses input-output analysis to quantify the total water requirements of different passenger-transport modes in Melbourne, Australia, including the direct and indirect water requirements of petrol cars, regional diesel trains and electric metropolitan trains.

Results show that urban electric trains are the least water intensive transport mode (3.4 L/pkm) followed by regional diesel trains (5.2 L/pkm) and petrol cars (6.4 L/pkm). These intensities result in average daily per capita transport-related water use that can be greater than residential water use. Findings also show that occupancy rates greatly affect the water intensity of transport modes and that when occupied by five passengers, cars are the least water intensive transport mode. Finally, this study shows that water use associated with transport depends on a range of factors across the supply chain and that indirect requirements associated with operations, including administration, advertisement, servicing and others, can represent a significant share of the total. Reducing the total water requirements of transport modes is therefore a shared responsibility between all the actors involved and integrated action plans are needed in order to reduce water use associated with transport.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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