Water is a local resource. It can only be managed well by using site-specific strategies. This is why water goals are best set at the local facility level. By understanding the unique challenges and opportunities in the watersheds where we operate, we can be better stewards of the resource upon which we depend, making our business more sustainable.
Nearly all the water we use comes from surface water sources – lakes, rivers and streams – and once we use it, we treat it and return approximately 90 percent of it to the original source. Most of the water that does not get returned has evaporated, with smaller amounts going out with our products and manufacturing byproducts.
All our mills are located in watersheds with ample water supplies, but we continue to look for opportunities to reduce water use. We know this will, in turn, reduce energy and other costs associated with filtering, pumping, heating and treating the water.
We also track the quality of the effluent we discharge from our effluent treatment plants. Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), total suspended solids (TSS) and adsorbable organic halides (AOX) are the three water quality indicators that we routinely measure as indicators of effluent quality. Since 2011, discharges of AOX and TSS have decreased while discharges of BOD have increased. Increased BOD discharges are primarily due to operational challenges at a few facilities and capacity constraints in several of our wastewater treatment systems, which are being addressed through lagoon dredging to increase BOD removal capacity.