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01-02-2012 | Issue 3/2012 Open Access

Water Resources Management 3/2012

Towards Quantification of the Water Footprint of Paper: A First Estimate of its Consumptive Component

Water Resources Management > Issue 3/2012
P. R. van Oel, A. Y. Hoekstra


For a hardcopy of this article, printed in the Netherlands, an estimated 100 l of water have been used. Most of the water is required in the forestry stage, due to evapotranspiration (green and blue water). In addition, the water footprint during the industrial stage, as accounted for in this study, consists of evaporation from water obtained from ground water and surface water (blue water). In this study estimates are made of water requirements for producing paper using different types of wood and in different parts of the world. The water footprint of printing and writing paper is estimated to be between 300 and 2600 m3/t (~2-13 l for an A4 sheet). These estimates account for paper recovery rates in different countries. This study indicates that by using recovered paper for the production of paper the global average water footprint of paper is only 60% of what it would be if no recovered paper would be used at all. Further savings may be achieved by increasing the recovery percentages worldwide. In addition, the global water footprint of paper can be reduced by choosing production sites and wood types that are more water-efficient. The results of this study suggest that the use of recovered paper may be particularly effective in reducing water footprints. This study is a first step towards a better understanding of the significance of the water footprint of paper and the effect of using recovered paper.

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