The green and blue water footprint of paper products: methodological considerations and quantification

P.R. van Oel, Arjen Ysbert Hoekstra

Research output: Book/ReportReportProfessional

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For a hardcopy of this report, printed in the Netherlands, an estimated 200 litres of water have been used. Water is required during different stages in the production process, from growing wood to processing pulp into the final consumer product. Most of the water is consumed in the forestry stage, where water consumption refers to the forest evapotranspiration. The water footprint during the manufacturing processes in the industrial stage consists of evaporation and contamination of ground- and surface water. In this report we assess water requirements for producing paper products using different types of wood and in different parts of the world. We quantify the combined green and blue water footprint of paper by considering the full supply chain; we do not include the grey water footprint in this study. The water footprint of printing and writing paper is estimated to be between 300 and 2600 m3/ton (2-13 litres for an A4 sheet). These figures account for the paper recovery rates as they currently are. The exact amount depends on the sort and origin of the paper used for printing. Without recovery, the global average water footprint of paper would be much larger; by using recovered paper an estimated 40% is saved globally. Further saving can be achieved by increasing the recovery percentages worldwide. For countries with a low recovered paper utilization rate a lot of room for reduction still remains. Some countries such as the Netherlands, Spain and Germany already use a lot of recovered paper. In addition, the global water footprint of paper can be reduced by choosing production sites and wood types that are more water-efficient. The findings presented in this report can be helpful in identifying the opportunities to reduce water footprints of paper consumption. This report also shows that the use of recovered paper may be very helpful in reducing water footprints.
Original languageUndefined
Place of PublicationDelft, The Netherlands
PublisherUnesco-IHE Institute for Water Education
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameValue of water research report series 46
PublisherUNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education


  • METIS-267210
  • IR-76065

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