Photo: Boston Public Library

It’s no coincidence that paper mills are always next to a river or a lake. They need more water than anything else to make paper. The pulp released onto the moving belt in a paper making machine will be diluted to 97% water.

This Sappi diagram, which you can enlarge by clicking on it, claims that paper mills return 90% of the water they use to the rivers. In the olden days, before we got our legal ducks in a row, the effluent was heavily polluted, and living downstream from a paper mill demanded olfactory blindness.

Paper Online has a bit of detail They point out the thought-provoking idea that because the modern paper mill has to purify the water it takes in, the decontaminated outflow may well be improving the quality of water in the river.

The amount of water used in papermaking has been being steadily reduced. For those who want numbers, here’s a 2014 article from Professional Papermaking focussed on the German industry.

Of course the industry’s need for paper doesn’t begin when the wood reaches the mill. Water management is needed in their forestry divisions: trees need water to grow. The following video focuses on that part of the water budget.

If you don’t see a video here, please click on the title of this post in order to view it in your browser.