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Forestry Sector – Water Workshop – November 24, 2009

On November 24, 2009, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), in collaboration with the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), hosted a Round Table meeting of stakeholder/experts from the forest sector to discuss issues pertaining to the future of Canada’s water resources and the forest products sector.

Forest Products Association Logo

Participants representing the pulp and paper sector, as well as forest managers and water experts, met to identify the key current and emerging freshwater use and availability issues within the sector, and characterize the state of freshwater use information in the forest sector to better inform water management decisions.

The focus of the meeting was to identify current and emerging freshwater use and availability issues and to characterize the state of water use information/data within the sector. The latter discussion also highlighted future information gaps believed necessary for sustainable water management. The final discussion was focused on recommendations to the NRTEE with respect to critical policy issues that the NRTEE might incorporate into its Water Program in 2010.

Water use and the Forest Products Sector

To initiate the discussion, Catherine Cobden, Vice President of Economics and Regulatory Affairs, FPAC, provided a presentation to the group which captured the water uses of the sector and touched upon the implications of forest management in the broader context of water and the hydrological cycle. The presentation highlighted the significant history of the forest products sector’s efforts in improving water use in terms of water quality by the pulp and paper sector. As well, the presentation noted the efforts and investment of the sector to collect detailed data sets on water input and output in relation to regulatory requirements.

Recognizing that pulp and paper mills are the greatest water users within the sector, the FPAC presentation discussed the challenges and tradeoffs associated with water conservation by pulp and paper sector. Most pulp and paper plants are situated near surface water sources, therefore water scarcity has not been perceived as an issue by practitioners.

Water quality objectives in relation to effluent discharge have been the primary focus of the sector. Therefore, reductions in water use have been driven by efforts to reduce energy costs at the facility level. At the same time, water use efficiency has been limited by the requirements of federal and provincial concentration based effluent toxicity regulations and lack of access to capital to implement new technologies to ‘do more with less’ as far as water is concerned.

Unique to the sector is the fact that water use trends have declined over the past decade, not only because of the efforts mills have made to reduce energy use, but also as a result of mill closures. Economic forecasts for the sector in the short-term predict economic declines due to further weakened demand for newsprint, high energy costs, and other external pressures. Therefore, because of continued pressure on existing mills to use less energy and because of closures, water use is likely to continue declining. However, prospective restructuring of the sector and demand for new forest products (such as biochemicals and biofuel) could lead to a renewal in water demand.

Technological advancements to improve water use for current and future operations could be implemented for future development if the regulatory and policy environment encouraged it.

Kirsten Vice, VP of Canadian Operations for the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, provided a presentation about recent work to examine the water footprint of the sector. This presentation stressed the difference between “water use” and “water consumption”. The sector is a significant water user, but the sector’s water consumption is relatively low. She also described recent work to determine what is known and unknown about forest land management impacts on watershed in Canada. A discussion around the advantages of employing a life-cycle assessment of water in forest products confirmed that this method is appropriate. Ms. Vice explained that NCASI is currently developing a quantitative profile of water uses by forest products in Canadian operations. Water footprint work is one way of communicating data that is otherwise unavailable or less appropriate for public audiences. It was noted that data on the water use wood product facilities are less accurate that those of pulp and paper mills.

Forest Land Management and Water Resources

The NCASI presentation also highlighted the importance of forest land management practices to water flows, temperature, turbidity, sediment and groundwater recharge. It is broadly acknowledged that not enough is known about forest-water resource interactions and that most forest decisions in this regard are based on outdated research. Canadian research on forest hydrology was robust in the 1960s and early 1970s, but has been scaled back significantly since that time. Climate change impacts underpin the need for renewal of this work in Canada. The increasing prevalence of forest fires, insect disturbances, and changes to forest species will have dramatic effects on freshwater resources. A significant opportunity exists in managing forests to protect Canada’s soils and freshwater resources. However there are significant challenges and barriers to overcome:

  • Forest management typically is orchestrated at the stand level, rather than the watershed level.
  • Scalability of research to inform adaptive management decisions is a related challenge.
  • Research in this area in Canada is underfunded and there is a deficit of expertise to draw from.

The underlying principal to these comments is that a holistic approach to manage water resources is needed. Cumulative impacts of water use by the natural resource sectors should be examined to inform policy decisions. These decisions should be developed according to life-cycle approach, should attempt to reconcile tradeoffs between water quality and quantity and should consider those impacts in the context of the hydrological cycle.

Forest Products and the Social License to Operate

The forest sector has a long history of demonstrating significant environmental improvements as a result of public interest. Improvements and advancements by the sector have been incorporated into third party certification, sustainability reporting, and eco-labelling schemes. The challenge of public concerns over water is that water availability is not a consistent concern for all communities. Historically, public concern about water has focused upon water quality and health issues.

In cases where local communities have demonstrated concerns over the volume of water use, the sector has demonstrated efforts to share information on water use and Environmental Effect Monitoring (EEM) results. It was noted that certain facilities are also now making a voluntary effort to participant in the Alliance for Water Stewardship and to incorporate the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Global Water Tool to communicate water use.

Water use information and data

It was confirmed that the pulp and paper industry (the most significant water user by the sector) is in a good position to evaluate its water use over time based on the proxy data from effluent discharge. Data that is collected for Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act and data collected by provinces that have provincial effluent regulations for the sector is precise and consistent over time. While this data is not complete representative of total water use by the sector, it is the best measure that is readily available, cost-effective route, and is considered accurate enough to inform policy decisions. The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) also has a biennial environmental survey which gathers effluent data for the industry and FPAC uses this data to provide a confidential report for all survey participants so mills can benchmark their water use. Aggregate summaries of these data are also provided in FPAC Sustainability Reports. Water use is identified by FPAC as a sustainability indicator.

Water use information by other wood products is less well-known. However, participants noted that information examining water use across all sectors to inform water management decisions should be consistent (to the greatest degree possible), should take into account consumptive and non-consumptive uses, and should be assessed using a life-cycle approach. It was agreed that the forest products sector has the facility-level data to inform management decisions that is needed, but this information is not generally made public except in aggregate form.

Direction for Further Inquiry by the NRTEE

In order to better understand the impacts of climate change and competing uses, some participants identified a need for water scarcity mapping. However, other participants suggested that Natural Resources Canada and Environment Canada are mapping water resources, or considering mapping exercises, and that the NRTEE’s effort on this issue should be limited to making recommendations about the need for mapping.

The forest sector also cautioned the NRTEE against excluding segments of the forest products industry that use less water from further research and recommendations, as all subsectors stand to benefit from recommendations to improve water management practices.

Participants suggested that looking at water use through a lifecycle assessment approach would be a useful way for the NRTEE to compare water use across the sectors and create a complete picture.

Identifying policy and regulatory barriers to water use reduction could potentially help in finding solutions.

Also unique to the forest sector meeting, participants suggested that the NRTEE could explore how market demand will shape water use and performance in the sectors.



Forestry Sector Roundtable Meeting

November 24, 2009

AbitibiBowater Inc., 1155 Metcalfe Street, Suite 800, Montréal, Québec

Item Time Allotted
1. Introductions and Objectives

Opening Comments from NRTEE and FPAC


9:00 – 9:15
2. NRTEE Presentation on “Water and Canada’s Natural Resource Sectors” Program 9:15 – 9:30
3. Overview of Water Issues – Forestry Products Association of Canada (FPAC) 9:30 – 9:55
4. NCASI’s Approach in Developing Forest Industry Water Profiles – National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) 9:55 – 10:20
5. Water Use Issues in the Forestry Sector

(a) Presentation and Discussion of Water Use Model for the Forestry Sector

(b) Discussion:

  • What are the key water use issues facing the sector (now/future; and real/perceived)?
  • What opportunities exist to improve the sector’s water use through innovation (or other means)?
10:30 – 12:15
6. Sector Water Use Information Identification & Characterization

(a) Presentation on Water Use Information for the Forestry Sector

(b) Discussion:

  • What information is collected for the sector?
    • By whom?
    • For what purpose?
  • What information is needed to manage:
    • Operational water use?
    • Impacts?
  • What are the key issues around water use information?
1:00 – 2:00
7. Implications for Focusing the NRTEE’s Program


What are the priorities that the NRTEE should focus on and study further with respect to:

  • Key issues?
  • Water use information?

    (Given what others are doing?)

What are some initial ideas on potential solutions to these priority issues that the NRTEE could investigate (policy options for example)?

What are some initial ideas on examples of particularly effective governance processes?

2:00 – 2:55
8. Wrap-Up and Closing Remarks 2:55 – 3:00




Jill Baker

Senior Policy Advisor

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)

Katherine Balpataky

Research Associate

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)

Fred Beall

Research Scientist, Forest Hydrology, Canadian Forest Service, Climate Change and Forest Research

Natural Resources Canada

Michael Bradley

Director, Technology & Sustainability

Canfor Pulp & Paper Sales Ltd.

François Bregha


Stratos Inc.

Catherine Cobden

Vice-President, Economics and Regulatory Affairs

Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC)

Roger Cook

Director of Environment

Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC)

Elizabeth David-Jeeroburkhan

Forestry, Agriculture and Aquaculture

Environment Canada

Francine Dorion

NRTEE Member; NRTEE Vice-Chair

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)

René Drolet

Director of Policy & Research

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)

Brian Gilliland

Manager, Environmental Affairs

Weyerhaeuser Company Ltd.

Chris Hilkene

NRTEE Member; Chair, NRTEE Water Program Sub-Committee

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)

Jean-François Levasseur

Senior Engineering Advisor, Technology and Environment, Canadian Forestry Service

Natural Resources Canada

Léon Marineau

Vice-President, Environment


Tim Morris

Programme Officer, Fresh Water Resources Protection

Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation

Brian O’Connor

Program Manager, Environment

FP Innovations

Alan Penn

Science Advisor, Grand Council of the Crees

Cree Regional Authority

Rachel Thibault

Quebec Forestry Industry Association

Christian Turpin

Manager, Environment – Woodlands and Québec Operations


Kirsten Vice

Vice-President, Canadian Operations

National Council for Air and Stream Improvement

Vicky Weekes


Stratos Inc.

Paul Wiegand

Vice-President, Water Quality

National Council for Air and Stream Improvement Inc.

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