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Water – the industry’s responsibility or liability. News commentary by Andy McCourt

Wednesday, 07 February 2007
By Print 21 Online Article

Amcor’s use of recycled water in its steam-raising plant will save an estimated 200 million litres of potable water per year. The fibre packaging and kraftliner plant takes in over 280,000 tonnes of waste paper and corrugated a year and this requires huge volumes of water and steam to re-process it. Bore water is also used increasingly and Amcor Botany will be using 465,000 fewer litres of potable water per day (compared to 2005) when all initiatives are fully operational.

Pulp and paper mills are avaricious water consumers and it is sound business and ‘triple bottom line’ strategy to minimise the impact on potable supplies.

Sydney Water, the authority with responsibility for Botany’s water is moving ahead with its ‘Every Drop Counts’ initiative into the SME sector following good results at the big end of business. In ISSUE 11 OF ITS ‘Conserver’ bulletin, there are no less than two print-related case studies of major water savings. Amcor Botany is one, and News Limited at Chullora is the other.

News has introduced operational changes that have reduced water use by 25 percent, with further initiatives expected to achieve a 70% reduction. From 66.7 million litres used at Chullora in 2001-02, 2006-07 is on target to be just 20 million litres.

Big sites such as Amcor and News do attract more attention – and funding from the state governments – but what about the 70-80 per cent of the industry comprising small to medium size businesses? There can be no doubt that water authorities will hone in on any that are wasting water – or doing nothing to reduce consumption.

Technology has assisted in many ways. Waterless printing, digital printing, elimination of chemical film processing, progress and processless CTP such as Agfa’s Azura and Kodak’s Thermal Direct printing plates are all helping to reduce our dependence on water.. This is welcome, as I’ve seen water running 24/7 in some prepress departments just to washout plates.

Start your water saving strategy now

There is nothing to stop every print and paper-related business from reducing water use today. Sydney Water has self-help reduction kits available for its business region, there must be others in all states.

Just as companies may have OH&S officers or HR specialists, the time is fast approaching when a ‘Water & Environment Officer’ may be de rigueur. It’s not just political correctness, it also makes sound business sense. There definitely is a financial upside. Water can cost anywhere between 6 cents and 24 cents per litre for excessive users. Some – in the mining sector – are lucky enough to have it given to them in return for investing in a particular state.

The Roxby Downs/Olympic Dam site in South Australia uses an estimated 33-42 million litres of water each day reportedly for free; pumped out of the Great Artesian Basin. Clearly unsustainable in the long-term as crops wither and livestock dies of thirst.

A September 2006 CSIRO report warned of : …massive increases in the cost of water in some capital cities unless new ways of trading and supplying water are found. And increases in water costs can be avoided by buying water from farmers and finding new sources of supply. Perth and Brisbane could face a tenfold increase in water costs over the next 25 years if nothing is done.

The study also suggests the cost of water could jump six times its present level in Sydney and Melbourne. The only cities with adequate water supplies are Hobart and Darwin.

So, my call is ‘what are you doing in your printing or paper-related business to reduce water consumption?’

Every drop counts.

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