Water availability

UPM’s most water-intensive production plants are located in areas where there is sufficient water available.


Water is critical for human existence, a crucial element of day-to-day life in all of the communities in which we operate. Water scarcity has become a major global challenge that puts a great responsibility on companies like UPM. It is also an exciting opportunity for our business to act as a force for good. Our target is to use water responsibly. This includes efforts to protect, maintain and monitor local water resources across our forestry, production and hydropower operations as well as during the transportation of our products.

The freshwater used in our direct mill operations is water from rivers and lakes, or groundwater taken from wells. The mill processes are within the permit limits for water uptake and effluent discharge set locally. This also applies to mills that use groundwater.

In 2011, we mapped all our pulp and paper mills on the Water Stress Index (WSI) maps (Pfister et. al 2009). As a result, our mills’ activities were preserved from water stress.

In 2019, an update of the previous assessment has been made using the Water Risk Filter, an online tool developed by WWF and the German finance institution DEG. The results also show that none of the 20 mills are located in an area with high or very high risk of water scarcity.

Based on the Water Risk Filter’s 32 global basin risk indicators and industry weightings, the final basin risk scores are generated. Classification from 1 to 5 is used: 1 means no or very limited risk and 5 means very high risk. The results of our 20 pulp and paper mills show that 16 mills’ scores are below 2 which means limited or even very limited risk. Four mills have scores above 3, which means that there is some risk. Thus, we had a closer look at those mills.

The UPM Changshu paper mill, located near Shanghai at the Yangtze River, presents the highest risk among all UPM mills with a score of 3.48. Already in 2016, UPM’s “More with Biofore” research programme started in China. It aims to improve energy efficiency and also environmental performance. One of the targets is to decrease water consumption by 50% per paper tonne. Over the past 10 years we have already reduced water consumption at the Changshu mill by 60% per ton of paper produced. While many small improvements have contributed to this achievement, we made major progress with the renewal of the waste water treatment plant in 2015.

The other three mills are slightly above 3 with scores of 3.04 to 3.09. UPM Chapelle Darblay is located near Paris at the river Seine. The water withdrawal is insignificant compared with the typical flow of 450 m3/s of the River Seine. The same applies for UPM Plattling with the River Isar’s average flow of 173 m3/s. Furthermore, almost the whole water withdrawal is sent back to the same watercourse after use and cleaning, which is further reducing any adverse effect on the watercourses. UPM Nordland relies on groundwater as its water source and the possible risk has already been addressed. In order to use less fresh water, ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis have been added as additional steps to the mill’s wastewater treatment plant. This allows to replace part of the needed fresh water with treated wastewater.

Only UPM pulp and paper that have large volumes of water withdrawal are mapped.


Overall basin risk


Basin risk maps


UPM reduces water use at its paper mills