Ways to Reduce Water Use

Sep 05, 2018

Schwartz_Jerry-WebBy Jerry Schwartz
Senior Director, Energy & Environmental Policy

Water stewardship initiatives have proliferated in the last several years. Examples include the CEO Water Mandate, the Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard, the Water Footprint Network, and United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 6: Ensure Access to Water and Sanitation for All. 

The wise use of water resources is a common thread among the various initiatives’ indicators of water stewardship. This aspect of water stewardship is a major focus for AF&PA members.

Through our Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 initiative our members have committed to reduce water use in their pulp and paper mills by 12 percent from 2005 to 2020. In 2016, they are more than halfway there, having reduced water use by 6.6 percent. Members are making progress toward achieving this goal by taking simple, routine steps, such as upgrading to more efficient technologies, as well as more innovative projects.

AF&PA recognizes outstanding sustainability initiatives through the annual AF&PA Sustainability Awards, which include a Leadership in Sustainability Award for Water.

In 2017, American Eagle Paper Mills received the award for their commissioned Project Phoenix, which increased efficiency and reduced water use at their Tyrone, Pennsylvania mill—one of the oldest working paper mills in the United States. Infrastructure updates resulted in an 83 percent reduction in total daily river and watershed water withdrawal; a 91 percent reduction in daily water consumption; and an 18.1 percent reduction in process water effluent per ton of paper produced. 

The 2016 award went to Procter & Gamble for five distinct projects they implemented at their Oxnard, California facility that led the site to deliver a cumulative absolute fresh water consumption reduction of 28 percent between 2012 and 2015. Setting new site and business records for low levels of water consumption, the company proved to be an important and responsible partner in addressing California’s urgent need for good stewardship of scarce water resources.

Projects such as these can dramatically decrease the amount of water a mill withdraws to manufacture its products, helping the industry achieve its water reduction goal and helping ensure adequate water resources for society’s future needs.