Journal Articles

Water profiles of the forest products industry and their utility in sustainability assessment

July 01, 2011

TAPPI Journal 10(7):19-27

Paul S. Wiegand, Camille A. Flinders, George G. Ice, Darren J.H. Sleep, Barry J. Malmberg, and Ilich Lama

Sustainability has become a key element of environmental management programs at most forest products companies. However, describing sustainability in terms of natural resource use and management can be challenging, owing to the evolution of practices deemed to be consistent with the concept. This paper provides quantitative and qualitative assessments and discussion of water resources as they relate to the activities of the forest products industry. Water resource use and management from the forest, through manufacturing, and on to potential effects of treated effluents on receiving waters is considered. Important findings from this work are that forests act to process precipitation into high-quality surface waters, and in North America, most surface waters are derived from forested areas. Forest management can affect water quality, but the use of forestry best management practices greatly minimizes harmful effects. Manufacturing of pulp and paper is water-use intensive relative to most other industries, although the amount of water consumed (i.e., evaporated or exported with product or residuals) represents a small fraction of the overall water used. The potential for treated effluent to affect receiving water systems has been widely investigated, and while effects are sometimes observed, aquatic community structures most commonly are not altered by well-treated mill effluents. Water profile results and water sustainability metrics are also briefly compared.