In pulp and paper making, the volume of effluent water roughly corresponds to the intake of fresh water and is, therefore, used as an indicator of water consumption. Most of the water used in production is taken from rivers or lakes. A small proportion of the process water is withdrawn from ground water, where water levels are monitored. More information on UPM's pulp and paper mills' main freshwater sources and treated effluent destinations can be found here.
Using less water also means using less energy and fewer chemicals for purification.
Process water is always re-circulated to the maximum extent possible. Thus only a small portion of the water used in production leaves the process as effluent and has to be replaced with fresh water.
All effluents are cleaned before being released into watercourses. Effluents from pulp and paper mills are purified in biological waste water treatment plants. The effects of treated effluent on the recipient watercourse are monitored in accordance with environmental permits and are reviewed both internally and by the relevant environmental authorities.
All effluents are cleaned by using mechanical and biological treatment processes to the highest standard before being released into watercourses. Effluent quality is regularly monitored and reviewed. In the papermaking process, water consumption has already been significantly reduced, and today it is about two thirds of what it was 15 years ago.
The European Water Stewardship (EWS) is an integrated system for business and agriculture to assess, verify and communicate their sustainable water management practices. It initiates private actions with independent guidance, provides positive incentives for sustainable water management, helps companies to communicate their success and achievements in water management at operational level and supports existing legal processes in the European Union.
UPM was one of the first paper industry companies who tested the EWS standard for its paper production at the Hürth mill in Germany.
UPM Hürth is located in the Rhine River Basin District, which covers an area of 170,000 square kilometres across several countries. The basin has been classified by the European Environment Agency as a non-stress region in accordance with the Water Exploitation Index 1.
In terms of water quality, the Lower Rhine received a classification of 'not good' for chemical status and 'poor' for ecological status in the Rhine management plan 2009. At the same time, UPM Hürth paper mill was able to opt for EWS certification. This shows that, although mills like Hürth might be located in an challenging environment, they can still do their share to contribute to sustainable water management at the river basin level.
The pilot study at UPM Hürth also showed the importance of effective water recycling: without water circulation the fresh water consumption would be close to 250 cubic metres per tonne of paper. Thanks to the recycling the water consumption is only 3 % of that.