Climate change is having a notable and growing impact on the water resources available around the world. Water is considered the most essential commodity for life, and has become a central concern for governments and companies as well as ordinary citizens. Although its quantity in nature is always the same, water quality has been gradually deteriorating as a function of the irreversible process of urbanization. As a result, steps to guarantee water supplies are urgently needed.
This universal attempt to protect water resources necessarily involves forests – both natural and planted. Consequently, activities such as mosaic planting, watershed monitoring, and improvement of management practices are increasingly present in the forest-based sector.
In the case of mosaic planting, for example, natural forests are interspersed with plantations for industrial purposes, which regulates the availability of water resources, conserves the soil, and preserves springs where rivers originate. This system, which is widely used in Brazil, ensures regulation of the water cycle.
Furthermore, analysis and monitoring of water basins makes it possible for us to understand the hydric conditions of the regions and how human activities affect the landscape. These environmental indicators allow management practices to be tailored in order to ensure the maintenance of water resources and their availability for both production and the demands of society.
Proper management of water use has been a constant concern for forest-based companies. In addition to sustainable forest management, continuous investments in technology, forestry, and management allow a three-fold increase in forest productivity and permit numerous rotations over a period of more than 50 years in a single area. This demonstrates that when planted forests are managed well, they do not degrade resources.
Another example of care taken with water availability in the forest is mechanized harvesting, which leaves a large volume of byproducts such as bark and leaves in the field. These materials form a layer that retains moisture and sediment even against the impact of rain, ensuring the quality of surface water and soil conservation.
The water reuse technologies employed in forest-based industry also permit other uses for this important natural resource. In the 1970s, industries needed to capture of 180 to 200 m3 of water to produce a ton of pulp; in 2015, to produce the same amount, pulp producers captured only 22 to 40 m3. At the end of the process, 80% of the original volume of water returns to its point of origin, 19.7% returns to the atmosphere through evaporation, and only 0.3% of the captured water remains in the product.
Awareness, management, and innovation are fundamental to ensure that there is enough water for everyone.
Learn more about this topic in Ibá’s infographic on water resources.