There are three key areas where water is used in the paper value chain: plantation forests, pulp and papermaking and paper recycling. The pulp and paper sector is a large industrial user of water however much of the water used by mills is recovered throughout the pulp and papermaking process. This water is recycled and clarified, then returned to the system for re-use. Water is also used to generate steam to power machines and for on-site power generation.
The trees that are used to make paper generally do not need fertiliser, nor do they require irrigation; they get their water from the ground and from rainfall. Forestry, when compared with other users, is one of the most efficient and beneficial water users in the country, in terms of the costs to the State, the social, economic and environmental returns it delivers, especially in rural areas, and the impact it has on water resources. Like any other crop, plantations use both soil and water resources but these can be measured against the returns they provide:
SA Eucalyptus fibre
Sugar cane molasses
TONNES of WATER REQUIRED FOR GROWTH PER TONNE OF CO2 ABSORBED
TONNES OF CO₂ ABSORBED PER HA PER ANNUM
- Forestry uses 3% of available water in the country – this is 5% of the water used by agriculture (62%). (Strategic Overview of Water Sector in South Africa, 2010. Department of Water Affairs; Forestry SA).
- Plantations and the forest products sub-sector provide 22,5% of the jobs in agriculture.
- Forestry occupies about 1.2% of the land used for agriculture.
NATIONAL WATER ACT
On 1 October 1998, the National Water Act, introduced new requirements, which replaced the afforestation permit system under the Forest Act of 1968. Under this act, the establishment of new commercial timber plantations required a water use licence for listed water use activities. PAMSA supports Forestry South Africa in its efforts to work with government to make planting trees easier within recognised environmental constraints. Limited fibre supply is the industry’s biggest constraint. The Department of Water and Sanitation has now acknowledged that genus exchange can take place without restrictions. For example, a change from pine to eucalyptus or the other way around. This is excellent news for the sector as eucalyptus is the preferred fibre for chemical cellulose and paper production.