Taking Efficient Water Use to New Levels

Nov 23, 2015

By David Kiser

International Paper Vice President Environmental Health and Safety

Water is essential to International Paper’s manufacturing and operating facilities around the world. In fact, we could not make our product without it. But we recognize that water’s value goes far beyond its use in papermaking.

Approximately 93 percent of the water in our process goes back to the aquatic environment after treatment. Much of the remaining 7 percent is returned to the environment via evaporation. Reducing our water footprint, especially in strategic watershed areas, is critical for our business and our sustainability agenda. We have set goals to map our water use and evaluate opportunities to align our water use with local supplies, and to further improve the quality of the water we return to the environment. We are also evaluating new projects that allow us to reduce water use in our mills.

A prime example of an IP reduction project is our Pensacola, Florida, containerboard mill’s efforts to reduce its water use in the groundwater-stressed region. The mill eliminated the discharge of its effluent to Elevenmile Creek and used it to enhance the historic Perdido Bay wetlands instead. The mill also partners with the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA), receiving up to five million gallons per day of ECUA’s treated effluent for suitable beneficial industrial reuse from their treatment facility. The partnership met International Paper’s interest to reduce its freshwater consumption and ECUA’s interest in a beneficial outlet for its highly-treated effluent.

The project has many positive outcomes: mill effluent discharge is removed from Elevenmile Creek; Perdido Bay and its ecosystem are protected; lands with unique and special habitats are preserved; wetlands with increased ecological value are enhanced; and reclaimed water displaces freshwater consumption, reducing demand for groundwater in the area.

Having established a project that is advantageous to all parties – International Paper, ECUA, and the local environment – we look forward to maintaining it well into the future.

International Paper received the 2015 AF&PA Leadership in Sustainability Award for Water for their Pensacola Mill/ECUA Partnership project.