Water Use

  • 96% of the water we use in our pulp operations is returned to the environment
  • Our mechanical pulp mills use 17 m3 of water per tonne of production
  • Our chemical pulp mills average 109 m3 of water per tonne of production

We use water in both our solid wood and pulp facilities. Solid wood mills largely use water for heating, misters for dust control and to cool equipment. At three sawmill sites, we also employ water in a closed-loop system for the cooling needs of our three biomass ORC bioenergy systems.  Our solid wood mills use little process water compared to the water used in the pulping process at our pulp facilities.

Pulp mills use a significant amount of water to wash and process pulp, transport it through the mill as well as for heat and power generation. Water consumption is closely tracked at our pulp and jointly-owned pulp and newsprint operations in Canada, as the pulping process requires significant volumes of water which is sourced from rivers near the facilities. Water will be re-used several times in the process before it is treated to meet rigorous regulatory and environmental standards. 

We produce two types of pulp, Bleached Chemical Thermo-Mechanical Pulp (BCTMP) via a mechanical process, and Northern Bleached Softwood Kraft pulp (NBSK) in a chemical pulp process. How we manufacture these two types of pulp has a substantial effect on the water we require.

The mechanical process of producing BCTMP pulp applies heat, chemicals and a refining process to create BCTMP in a non-chlorine environment. Softwood BCTMP is used for manufacturing products such as coated board grades, printing and writing paper and paper towel/napkin grades. It uses significantly less water per tonne of pulp produced than NBSK, averaging 17 m3 of water per tonne of production. 

NBSK pulp is a chemical pulp. It is produced by combining woodchips and chemicals into what is called a digester. The chemical process in the digester breaks down the lignin in the fibre, lignin being the glue that holds fibres together. NBSK pulp in its finished form is made up of long slender fibres that provide excellent bonding and tensile properties. NBSK pulp is used for manufacturing a variety of paper products including printing and writing paper, specialty grades and a range of tissue products. NBSK’s manufacturing process requires larger volumes of water relative to BCTMP pulp, averaging 109 m3 of water per tonne of production. 


The water disclosures below are provided for our BCTP pulp mills Quesnel River Pulp and Slave Lake Pulp, and NBSK pulp mills Hinton Pulp and joint venture Cariboo Pulp & Paper, which West Fraser manages. West Fraser is a partner in, but not the managing partner of, the Alberta Newsprint company. This facility’s water metrics are not included in the below figures.

See Water on the West Fraser website, and visit Waste Management to access environmental perfomance information about our effluent management.