22.03.2022 - Sustainability

Sustainable water management at WEPA

22 March is World Water Day. On the occasion of this event, WEPA draws attention to the problems and risks of water use and their solution – sustainable water management.

To us, access to water seems to be self-evident, but that is far from being the case. The reason? Water is precious – and will become even more precious over the coming years. Not only is water an irreplaceable commodity, but it is also becoming increasingly scarce in many regions of the world. Excessive water caused by increasing extremes of weather in the form of heavy rain, flooding and hurricanes is also a major problem. This means that water use and climate change are increasing the scale of global risks for the environment, society and businesses.

It is our task as a responsible family business to use water sustainably for our production processes, to save energy and, in this way, to protect people and the environment. This, in turn, requires sustainable water management.

But what exactly does that mean? What does WEPA need water for? And how do we rise up to the challenge of using this resource sustainably? Find the answers below.

What is sustainable water management?

“Sustainable water management” refers to the careful use of water in private households and the reutilisation of water in the industrial sector and agriculture. For this very reason, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is focusing its funding on the development of innovative technologies, processes and system solutions for the sustainable management of the resource water.

Priorities for funding are structured according to the areas of “Water and Energy”, “Water and Health”, “Water and Food”, “Water and Environment” and “Water in Urban Regions”.

The objectives: to develop key technologies across disciplines and in cooperation with industry, to adapt to changing framework conditions and to promote such technologies at international levels. Industrial companies in particular, and especially small and medium-sized enterprises, are intended to take part in collaborative projects.

Why does WEPA need the resource water?

Water is one of the most importantresources for the manufacture of our products. At our sites we use surface water, groundwater and, to a very limited extent, drinking water, in our production processes (as process water) and for cooling purposes (as cooling water).

Since water is one of the world’s most valuable resources and the WEPA Group depends on this resource, its sustainable use is essential. The solution – sustainable water management.

How does WEPA implement sustainable water management?

At WEPA we systematically promote the conservation of water as a resource. As a consequence, the WEPA plants work with a water cycle that uses the water for as long as possible and as much as possible – representing a form of lever for the closing of water loops.

Paper production as a whole is highly water-intensive since water assumes many functions in the process, e.g. serving as a medium for dilution and transport. This is also the case with stock preparation, where bales of recovered paper and pulp are dissolved in water to form fibre pulps from which foreign matter is removed. In addition to further sorting steps, the deinking process is also applied to recovered paper, in which printing pigments are washed out and skimmed off with the addition of air. The cleaned fibre pulp, at this stage consisting largely of water, is then pumped to the paper machine to form sheets.

In the paper machine the fibres are dried via the wire and dryer sections and a large part of the extracted water is reused in closed loops. Most of the water is returned to the surface water after utilisation and subsequent cleaning. Pure cooling water on the other hand can be discharged directly back into the surface water after use. Thanks to our sustainable water management we have reduced our relative water consumption by 40% since 2016 – and we continue to drive forward the systematic optimisation of our water management.

Our joint project with the WWF

To protect the environment and society, an awareness and comprehension of the risk of water use and its appropriate management is essential. For this reason we have teamed up with our long-standing partner WWF Germany to set up a new project: we instigated an assessment of the water risks at our 13 production sites with the WWF Water Stewardship Programme. With this project we take yet another step further towards sustainable water management.

The focus: an analysis of the risks to the environment, people and businesses in association with water use – e.g. water scarcity, flooding and insufficient water quality. The water risk is determined with the Water Risk Filter. This WWF tool generates risk scores for each site, and the subsequent definition of strategic water objectives is based on this analysis.

With this project we aim to adequately reduce the water risk for all WEPA Group sites and, in a subsequent step, for our entire supply chain. Furthermore, WEPA will be working with other water users and protagonists to promote sustainable water use at the river basin level. A specifically measurable target is already being drawn up together with the WWF and will be published in our next Sustainability Report in the middle of the year.

More information here: Sustainability at WEPA

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