Holmen uses water to transport and wash fibres at the mills. Water is also used for other operations, such as cooling and steam production. The water used is almost entirely surface water, that is to say water taken from lakes and rivers. The same water is often used several times. Wastewater from the process is treated in several stages before it is released. At Holmen sites this involves various combinations of mechanical, biological and chemical treatment. Flowing water is utilised to generate electricity at Holmen's hydro power plants.
How Holmen tackles water issues
In Sweden and the UK there are ample supplies of surface water. Precipitation levels are high, so watercourses are well filled throughout the year.
Holmen has not established any Group-wide environmental targets regarding water use. The issue is dealt with at each site, and for some mills there are environmental targets under the environmental management systems.
There are conditions for the emission of various substances at the mills. These conditions are laid down by the environmental authorities. The conditions in the environmental permits regarding type of wastewater treatment are based on the unique water conditions in the vicinity of each mill. Emissions to water are measured daily in order to ensure that the emissions regulations issued by the environmental authorities are complied with. Holmen continuously monitors the status of recipient aquatic environments in close co-operation with the environmental authorities.
Holmen's forests contain lakes, streams and other water-rich environments, which are all sensitive ecosystems with a rich fauna. The waters in the forests are a priority area for Holmen, and active efforts are made both in setting environmental targets and in practical work.
The EU's Water Framework Directive is being implemented. Its target is to achieve a good status for all water in Europe by 2015. This means that the industry may face new requirements for measures so that all watercourses attain good water quality. The Group participates in local water conservation associations, which will have a key role when the Framework Directive comes into effect. Holmen is well placed to satisfy the requirements of the EU Directive with the measures being taken to reduce both water consumption and emissions.
In line with increased awareness of the sensitivity of nature to climate change, there has been increasing focus on the availability of fresh water around the world. Methods are therefore now being developed to be able to calculate the water footprint of companies and products, that is to say water consumption from a lifecycle perspective.
An industry-wide project has been carried out in Sweden to describe the use/consumption of water at industrial sites and water flows in forestry. Water consumption is often defined as the water that is withheld from other uses. The water that evaporates during forest industry manufacturing processes is withheld from other uses in the short term and can therefore be considered to have been consumed. Water in the products manufactured and in the resulting waste should also be seen as withheld from other use. The process water that leaves the mills, however, is of a quality that permits other use and has thus not been consumed. This quality is regulated through the mills' environmental permits and emissions regulations. In addition to use in processes, water is also used for cooling in process sections at the mills. This water is discharged, allowing for it to be used in other ways.
The conclusion of the project was that the impact of the Swedish forest industry and forestry on water access and quality is limited, and in some cases positive.
The total consumption of water in the Swedish forest industry was assessed to be
6–7 per cent of raw water intake. More than 90 per cent of water consumed (water withheld from other uses) is in the form of steam.
Holmen has performed a corresponding study for the Group's Swedish mills. The results concur with those that emerged in the industry-wide project. Water consumption for the three mills was between 1 and 5 per cent of raw water intake.