With minerals, forest resources, cropland, and most natural resources, ownership has been defined. However, water is different. No-one owns water but everyone depends on it.
Different interests related to water need to be balanced by good water governance in the watershed scale. Typically there are multiple users of water resources within the watershed, such as agricultural, industrial and household users – not to mention nature, whose processes are sensitive to changes in water levels, flows and quality.
Finland has an abundance of forest and water resources. About 78 per cent of the total area of Finland is forested land, while water bodies make up about 10 per cent. In Finland, the total rainfall is twice the volume that evaporates.
These plentiful water and forestry resources provide the solid foundations for a forest industry – therefore Metsä Group and Metsä Board minimizes the impacts of forestry on water quality rather than quantity. In contrast, near the equator even modest usage of water may have major environmental impacts.
Even in Europe there are big differences
Taking a look at the water scarcity factor, the whole of Europe has been calculated a factor at 1. In Finland it is 0.38 and in Spain, the figure is 5.2. An example of corresponding figure outside of Europe: in Israel the water scarcity factor is 33.
If 10 m3 of water is used for each tonne of paperboard produced in Europe, in Finland the figure could be 30 m3/tonne when the scarcity factor is taken into account. Nevertheless, the Finnish paper industry has reduced its water consumption by up to 90 per cent from the 1970s by investing in a more efficient usage of water. At the same time, the production volumes of board and pulp have been multiplied, and the quality of water returned to waterways has improved.
If paperboard production is viewed in terms of water footprint, in northern European regions – where it takes 80–120 years for a tree to grow big enough for harvesting – as much as 98 per cent of the water footprint of board is made up of the water that the tree uses while it is growing. For contrast, trees grown in plantations grow to harvesting size in as little as ten years, which means less water is used.
The question is less about how much water an organisation or a product uses, but rather where and how it is used. Principles of responsible water usage practices are quite clear.
The main thing, after all, is to have and further develop sustainable forestry operations and water economy and to see to that we have renewable forestry resources and sustainable raw material production.