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Water Soft-path Application in Industrial Systems: A Pulp and Paper Case Study

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Elizabeth Hendriks
Elizabeth Hendriks has recently completed her Master's of Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
Article:
AbstractFreshwater availability, allocation and quality are increasingly becoming a concern in Canada. Canada’s apparent availability of abundant freshwater is not what it was thought to be. With increasing competition for water sources and inadequate management systems water use and management approaches are being re-examined. While urban and municipal water uses are highly studied, Canadian industrial water use is not. Despite that industrial water use is understudied, the Canadian pulp and paper industry is a major user of water and contributes to quality water issues where mills are located. This thesis is divided into two equally important parts. First, this research seeks to understand the influences and prevailing conditions on the decision-making framework of pulp and paper mills. Second, it seeks to understand how the prevailing conditions affect the applicability of the water soft-path concept in the pulp and paper industry. It will contribute to the literature of Canadian industrial water management. This research specifically examines the applicability of the water soft-path concept under the stresses and realities of the systems of influence identified as market forces, policy and regulation, and technology faced by the Canadian pulp and paper industry. Corporate culture was an implicitly common thread that ran through these systems of influence. A variety of methods were used in this study including, a literature review conducted by themes, surveys, interviews, analysis of archival data and backcasting were used as the methodological approaches. The literature review was conducted by themes of water management, technology, market forces, regulation and corporate culture. Surveys were conducted to gain water use data from specific mills but a low response rate required a widening of the research boundaries. Interviews were conducted with government officials, industry representatives, and environmental non-governmental organizations. The interviews contributed to the boundary setting and understanding of the influences that impact decision-making for industry. The analysis of archival data was to better understand how water use in pulp and paper mills has changed through the years. Understandably the systems of influence (market forces, policy and regulation, and technology) work independently and together to create a complex environment in which decisions on water use in pulp and paper mills are made. The complexity of the decision-making framework is great and the barriers to water soft-path application difficult. Market forces are less capable of addressing environmental externalities such as water. Regulation and policy has yet to address water use in industry. Technology does provide an important opportunity for efficient water use and application of the pulp and paper industry. Ultimately, the Canadian pulp and paper industry is in a redefining moment where opportunity exists to create a new direction and approach to water use in the Canadian pulp and paper industry.
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