Water and Effluents
Management of water and effluents in forestry operations
Related Material Issues
Today, about 75% of the world’s accessible freshwater resources depend on forested watersheds. Therefore, forests are vital natural infrastructures for the supply of fresh water, and their management can provide “nature-based solutions” for a number of social challenges related to water.
Therefore, Suzano recognizes the importance of water as a vital resource for the balance of the ecosystems and for the continuity of its business, and is committed to guaranteeing the availability of and access to quality water for the different users of the watersheds where it operates, based on the following:
- protection and monitoring of rivers and springs
- risk analysis and mitigation of impacts resulting from its operations
- management and control of water withdrawal by the forestry operation
- ecological restoration of degraded environments, and
- environmental awareness and education of employees and neighboring communities
In relation to water management, guidelines are established to monitor the water resources, allowing for an evaluation of the quality and availability of water in the bodies of water influenced by Suzano’s forest management, and to guide decision-making, such as the improvement and adaptation of forest management and compliance with the directions established by the company.
Currently, water management in the forest considers the demands associated with current legislation and/or license requirements; forest certification requirements; international agreements (such as Sustainable Development Goals; UN Decade of Restoration; 20×20 Initiative, among others) sector and multilateral agreements (such as Forestry Forums and IBÁ); partnerships with universities, companies, government and NGOs (ESALQ/USP, P&G, SONOCO, IEF, TNC, and Instituto Terra); stakeholder demands (such as overlap for water use) and global platforms for disclosure of impact management (CDP, DJSI, GRI, WaterFootprint, among others).
Management and identification of risks and opportunities
The use of water for operational activities is regulated by a state public agency that, depending on the water availability of each resource and of the volume needed by other users, establishes the maximum amount of water to be used by the company. Irregular water withdrawals, i. e., in places without the agency’s authorization or with volumes above the permitted daily limits, imply environmental risks, affecting the availability of water, contaminating the soil or water, and leading to legal risks, resulting in administrative or criminal liability. The risks associated with water consumption are reduced downstream flow, erosion and silting, contamination due to effluent discharge, and fines at the state and federal levels due to infractions of legislation related to water resources.
Suzano’s management and commitments
Suzano’s forest base is distributed over several important watersheds in Brazil, which have distinct environments, uses and occupations, and demands for water use.
In view of this diversity, Suzano seeks to increase the efficient use of water in the forest and to show solidarity with this resource. In early 2020, the company made a commitment to “increase water availability in 100% of critical watersheds by 2030” (Available in Long-Term Goals). Critical watersheds are those subject to lack of water availability due to natural characteristics (such as climate and soil type) and type of land use. Suzano is focusing its efforts on watersheds significantly occupied by the company (equal to or greater than 30%), so that the practices adopted by forest management can be effective and generate the best results to reverse the criticality of these watersheds and the consequent unavailability of water.
In order to implement technical management actions in the forest and understand water supply/demand in watersheds, Suzano has a robust environmental monitoring network. In 1990 the company launched the Micro-Watershed Project and currently has 15 watersheds equipped with sensors to calculate the water balance and broaden the understanding of the relations and effects of forest management in locations that are representative of Suzano’s production model. The company has its own network of 83 meteorological stations distributed throughout its forest base to assess the effects of climate on forest productivity and water supply in watersheds. It also has a network of six eddy flux towers, equipment that performs the water and carbon balance in very high frequency monitoring.
For more than 10 years Suzano has had a partnership with the Cooperative Program for Environmental Monitoring in Micro-Watersheds (PROMAB), which is coordinated by the Laboratory of Forest Hydrology of the Department of Forestry Sciences of ESALQ/USP. This cooperative program between companies in the sector and the university has an important role in generating knowledge about the best management practices, providing transparency about the business through numerous scientific publications, and promoting future research for the development and sustainability of the topic.
To strengthen the management of water resources and address and minimize risks, Suzano created a corporate Water Resources Management Group in 2020. By managing water-related information, the group is working to create relationships and communication strategies with stakeholders to demonstrate responsible use of this natural resource and implement the recommendations for water management in the forest. An important action of this strategy is to increase its participation in local watershed committees, to discuss the use of water together with government representatives, companies, and civil society.
Suzano also has standard operating procedures in place to guide and provide technical support to the operational areas for the sustainable management of water resources. The operation follows planning, withdrawal, and use of water in Forestry, Harvesting, and Logistics. In this way, water withdrawal is monitored daily by the company’s environmental area. Monitoring includes checking where water withdrawal is allowed, the withdrawal permit issued by the environmental agency, and the volume withdrawn from each site, with its geographical location and the name of the watercourse, which streamlines the identification, control, and correction of any deviations.
As an internal policy, the organization has a Matrix for Management of Environmental Aspects and Impacts, which identifies the forest management activities that could impact the quality and availability of water and establishes control measures. Periodic monitoring is conducted to assess water quality and availability at all company units, where sampling points were strategically placed (representative of the production and coverage model) to establish a possible relationship between the company’s eucalyptus forests/harvesting areas. and the conditions of water resources (flow and water quality, rain, and laboratory results), located in the watershed where Suzano operates.
In this way, an adequate forest management promotes several ecosystem services, among them, the provision of fresh water and regulation of water quality, which benefit not only the forest production, but also the supply of quality water to the different users of the watersheds in which we operate.
To learn more about the watershed monitored by Suzano, see the indicator “Total number of watersheds monitored for the quality and availability of water resources”.