United Nations
Commission on Sustainable Development

Background Paper

Commission on Sustainable Development                                              Background Paper No. 13
Sixth Session
20 April - 1 May 1998

                Chapeau for Business and Industry
                        Background Papers

Business and industry plays a critical role in the global drive for sustainable development. In the
run up to and since the Rio Earth Summit, business's commitment to this goal has been apparent
through many innovative initiatives launched by individual companies and business groups.
Ground-breaking private-public sector partnerships have also contributed significantly to the

The launch of many positive voluntary programmes, such as the ICC Business Charter for
Sustainable Development and as described in the WBCSD's report "Signals of Change: Business
Progress Towards Sustainable Development," indicates the broad agreement of industry world-wide to integrate sustainable development considerations into nearly every aspect of their day to
day activities.

Business's constructive role in the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development
(UNCSD) clearly demonstrates on-going commitment to this long-term process. Successful
technology co-operation, amongst the many varied contributions business is making to sustainable
development, is one process  which business can tailor to maximum effect in the pursuit of
balanced economic growth and development . During the 1998 session of the CSD, industry
wishes to underscore its on-going contribution to technology co-operation. Most importantly,
business has a key role to play in addressing poverty alleviation while stimulating more sustainable
consumption and production, all in the context of economic growth, environmental protection and
social development.

Industry's submissions to UNCSD 6 follows Agenda 21's approach in focusing on both the
internal operations of a company (corporate environmental management tools) and its external
relationships (responsible entrepreneurship). In addition, industry's role in technology co-operation and in freshwater issues are the third and fourth discussion themes in the Business and
Industry Background Papers summarized below.

Responsible Entrepeneurship (Background Paper No. 1)

Responsible, entrepreneurial businesses are the driving force for sustainable economic
development and provide the managerial, technical and financial resources to contribute to the
resolution of environmental challenges. Many challenges remain and industry must continue to
improve performance and keep stakeholders informed of its policies and practices. A particular
challenge will be bringing SMEs into the mainstream of good environmental management. 

More broadly, business and industry will continue to champion voluntary environmental initiatives
which encourage companies to go beyond regulatory compliance, in the spirit of responsible

Corporate Environmental Management Tools (Background Paper No. 5)

The development and use of corporate EMS (Environmental Management System) tools are the
mechanism to integrate sustainable development considerations into everyday business.
Furthermore, developing initiatives for public and private sector partnership show great promise
for the increased voluntary use of EMS and related corporate tools.  Such efforts will contribute
to a harmonization of environmental regulation and enforcement and will drive further
improvements in corporate policy and practice. 

Globally, the private sector is a primary source of employment creation, information, training,
and capacity building.  However, if the private sector is to make its full contribution to sustainable
development, an essential prerequisite is a sound policy framework, both at the national and
international level.

This will promote and encourage growth and development and maximize industry's ability to
employ the increasingly effective range of corporate environmental management tools to the
greatest benefit. To support these trends, the ICC and WBCSD recommend increased attention
to the development and integration of voluntary environmental management systems at all levels
of business.

Technology Co-operation (Background Paper No. 9)

Successful technology co-operation, tailored to the specific national or corporate case, is critical
to the implementation of sustainable development. . The concern that excessive government
regulation of technology co-operation could stifle innovation and limit access to needed technology
should be noted. Commercialization of R&D developments for new technologies to function as
part of normal business life as quickly as possible is important in order to achieve the common
goals. To this effect governments should enhance an effective business environment to catalyse
the process of commercialization. The private sector has an increasing role to play in delivery of
effective technology co-operation  which, clearly, involves the transfer of skills and knowledge
not just technological hardware. While it is apparent that the free market is the main driving force
for the efficient introduction and assimilation of technology, successful, long-term technology co-operation requires that all parties must gain from the co-operation, while,  at the same time, the
protection of patents and intellectual property rights of the developer is essential. The ICC and
WBCSD strongly recommend a concerted effort to ensure the  creation of an efficient framework
which promotes successful technology co-operation.

Industry and Freshwater (Background Paper No. 13)

The 21st Century will witness increasing competition for finite fresh water resources. 
Industry, which is not the main user of water, has financial, technical and management resources,
and is well positioned to contribute to the resolution of broader societal problems in this critical
area. It is apparent that all sectors need to co-operate if society is to avert or minimize adverse
effects associated with emerging fresh water shortages. 

The elements of a comprehensive water strategy are rather straight forward and apply to all
parties. Growing evidence demonstrates that industry has already begun to manage industrial water
use more effectively. One future task is to continue raising awareness within the business
community and encourage others , notably within the agricultural sector,  to take action now. The
issue of economic pricing of water, both in agriculture and domestic use, remains primarily a
government and public policy issue. Subsidies should be phased out since they encourage waste
and prevent better management of finite fresh water resources.  The 1992 Dublin Principle was
clear and correct: "Water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be
recognized as an economic good."

Commssion on Sustainable Development       Background Paper No.13
Sixth Session
20 April - 1 May 1998

                    INDUSTRY AND FRESHWATER
             International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
    World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

"The 21st Century might well be characterized by increasing competition for finite fresh water
resources.  Continuing today's unsustainable practices will tend to increase the number and the
severity of future droughts and shortages.................".  

                        I. INTRODUCTION
1.   Industry currently accounts for approximately 20% of the total fresh water used by
mankind.  The percentage varies from region to region.  As world population increases and living
standards rise, there will be increasing competition for the world's finite fresh water resources.  If
all sectors of society move towards more sustainable use of water, most future needs could be
met.  This paper outlines what many creative and innovative companies have already done to
reduce water use, to use water more efficiently, and to improve the quality of water discharged by
industry.  The paper presents a series of case studies.  These identify lessons learned and can serve
as a benchmark for best practice by industry.  Many other examples (22 as of this date) can be
found in a report on Industry, Fresh Water and Sustainable Development jointly prepared by
UNEP and WBCSD.  (this report will be published in the 1st quarter of 1998)

2.   Collectively, industry has technology and management skills which potentially can make a
major contribution towards managing the world's fresh water resources sustainably.  Industry is
only one stakeholder in this complex issue.  It is moreover not even the largest user of fresh
water.  In partnerships with governments, farmers, and civil society, industry can make major
contributions to addressing and solving water problems in the new century. 

3.   Increasing demands for water are occurring from 4 key areas which in aggregate are exerting
unsustainable pressures both in developed and developing countries:
     (a)  human needs for safe drinking water and proper sanitation 
     (b)  agriculture needs for expanded production to meet population growth, 
     (c)  environmental needs to protect ecosystems, endangered species, biodiversity,    (d)  watersheds and other unique areas of special interest, and
          industrial needs to provide more goods and services for a growing population.

                        A.  Human needs 

4.   The major factor influencing the demand for fresh water is the world's changing paterns of
population growth, distribution, and wealth. The world's population is expected to increase from 5.3
billion in 1990, to between 8 and 10 billion people in 2050, with 90 % of future population growth
occurring in the developing countries.  A very large percentage of this growth will occur in megacities
with acute water and sanitation problems.  The World Bank estimates that over 1 billion individuals
lack access to clean water and 2 billion do not have even rudimentary access to basic sanitation today.

5.   Industry has identified a number of areas where it could play an active role, including the
research and development of efficient new infrastructure for urban water supply and new technology
for the re-use of urban waste water.

                     B.  Agriculture needs 

6.   Agriculture is the largest water user sector, accounting for over two thirds of current
global fresh water use.  Agriculture is also the largest polluter of water in most developed and
developing countries as a result of pollution from poor land management practices including
unwise use of pesticides and fertilizers, inefficiencies in irrigation, unrealistically low subsidized
water costs which encourage wasteful practices.  In the agricultural sector the issue is often one
of "non-point" sources where it is difficult to identify the source and exact discharge points of the
pollution.  Agro-industry and the trade associations have already initiated many corrective
programs.  This is an area industry considers to be key for the evolution of new government water

7.   Industry can help by promoting best practice in environmental management, including
fertilizer and pesticide usage.  In addition, industry research and development in the area of better
irrigation technology is strongly supported.  However, the issue of economic pricing of water,
especially in the agricultural sector, is recognized as a key area for priority government attention.

                    C. Environmental needs 

8.   The allocation of water for environmental needs is a growing area of investigation and
policy development.  The environment requires water of sufficient quality and quantity to maintain
a diverse array of ecosystems and biodiversity.  Moreover, it is becoming increasingly obvious
that the environment is not just a sectoral user of water, but provides a fundamental role in
maintaining the quality and supply of the world's water resource for use by other sectors.  One
classic example is forested watershed protection.  Poorly planned clear-cutting of forests on steep
slopes has led to disastrous soil erosion and flooding.  The short term economic gains have led to
dramatic social and disaster relief costs far outweighing the benefits.

9.   Possible roles for industry, include the support of catchment management networks
amongst stakeholders in a watershed to promote effective environmental management of water
and land resources.  Companies in the natural resource sectors of mining, forest products, paper,
and oil and gas extraction have special interest in managing and restoring the lands they use.  The
chemical and fertilizer sectors also have an important role to play in protecting environmental
amenities and life supporting ecosystems.  Additionally, the continued education of industry in
water management practices is recommended.

                          D.  Industry

10.   Currently, industrial use of water accounts for approximately 20% of global fresh water
consumption (this figure varies widely from region to region).  But, demand for water is growing
quickly in industry (along with population and agricultural usage), particularly in rapidly developing

11.  Significant progress has been made by many companies primarily in OECD countries in the
area of water conservation.  This trend will continue to grow and, in the face of increasing demand
from downstream users for a greater share of water, industry must continue to adjust and develop its
water management strategies.  

12.  Industry has a much larger role to play than just protecting its access to water.  Industry can
also bring the technological capability to move water, treat water and manage water supplies.  The
development of water technology and strategies for providing clean drinking water and removing
wastes is one area where industry is intimately connected to improving the living conditions of
populations in developing countries.  Industry has an opportunity to participate in providing
sustainable solutions for water management, not only for itself but for its neighbors, local farmers and
ecosystems as well.

                       III.  WATER SUPPLY
13.  In aggregate terms the world is not running out of fresh water.  The world's natural water
cycle is constantly renewing supplies.  Large quantities of water are lifted from the seas by
evaporation and then precipitated onto land surfaces as ice, snow or rain.  Continental precipitation
supplies 45,000 cubic kilometers of new fresh water every year   e. g. enough to inundate all of
Europe under 2.3 meters of water.  Ice and snow melt from mountains to release fresh water to our
rivers, streams lakes, and to recharge underground streams and aquifers.  

14.  Many arid areas are, however,  already suffering from continuous shortages; droughts affect
other  regions sporadically; aquifers are being drawn down more rapidly than nature replaces water;
salt water intrusion makes much fresh water undrinkable; pollution from many sources reduces
useable supplies; random climate events like El Nino acerbate drought in some regions and generate
excess rain, storms and flooding in others.  Even in nations where water has traditionally been
abundant, such as England, extensive periods of drought have threatened to disrupt normal water
supply recently.  

15.  Thus there is evidence that water shortages are occurring more frequently, in more locations,
and all sectors of society need to prepare themselves for a new era of recurring fresh water crises. 
Action taken now could reduce the number of these local and regional crises.  Many observers believe
that fresh water could be a limiting factor in future development.  Sustainable development demands
that we use our finite freshwater resources more intelligently and efficiently.

16.  Most use of water is not absolutely consumptive.  Instead, it is constantly being recycled by
nature.  When the farmer irrigates his crops a good portion returns immediately to nearby water
sources, and the amount fixed in crops is eventually recycled back to nature.  When the factory uses
water or an individual takes a bath most of the water eventually returns to nature.  Increasingly the
issue has become not whether water is recycled but rather how soon, where, and in what condition
is the water returned for another user.  Along many rivers water is used and reused multiple times
before it flows back to the sea.

17.  Finally technology is available to convert saline water into fresh water, albeit still at high cost. 
Thus like most resources, we are not in danger of running out.  But unless water resources are
harnessed more sustainably, we shall all have to pay ever higher prices to deliver the desirable
commodity   small comfort for the poor unable to pay more for water.

                       IV.  WATER QUALITY

 18. Water quality is inextricably intertwined with fresh water usage. The most sensitive water
issue for many industry sectors is water quality.  While the limitations of the future supply of water
for industry is a growing concern, industry is still sometimes perceived by the public as the worst
polluter of water.  Although there are many serious examples of point source industrial pollution in
the world, pollution control regulations and water charges have generally ensured the trend towards
industry compliance with ever stringent limitations on discharges to public waters.  

19.  The reality is that pollution from agriculture and urban waste water are by far the larger
problems - in terms of absolute levels of pollution, the geographical extent of the pollution problem
and in the relative difficulty of controlling these non-industrial sources of pollution.  

20.  When individuals, farmers or industry use water, they invariably add unwanted substances
to the discharge water.  Beginning around 1970 public and political forces within most OECD
countries began to demand improved water quality.  Since that date there has been a virtual
revolution in the way society and industry regard water.  It began with command and control
regulatory "end-of-pipe" retrofit technology at existing industrial facilities.  It was followed by
massive programs to upgrade existing and install new sewers and public wastewater treatment
facilities.  These public facilities treated both individual discharges and discharges from smaller
and medium sized companies. The revolution continued with discharge permit requirements for
new or modernized plant and equipment.  

21.  Initially there were acrimonious debates about the level of discharge controls and the
timeframes for compliance.  Soon everyone learned that pollution prevention, especially when
building new facilities, was eminently more cost effective than cleaning up dirty water after the
fact.  When governments established performance standards rather than specifying technology
standards, industry found creative ways to use less water, to recycle or reuse wastewater, to move
towards zero discharge or closed loop systems and to find ways to reduce or eliminate the
pollution before it contacts the water.  

22.  As we approach the 21st Century, water quality for industry means moving towards "Eco-Efficiency and  Cleaner Production",  concepts championed by the United Nations Environmental
Programme and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.  

23.  Both UNEP and WBCSD are convinced that "eco-efficiency and cleaner production" are
crucial elements in both water quality and quantity issues.  As industry finds new innovative ways
to prevent waste, to produce more with less and to discharge less wastewater, there is an
inevitable decrease in water consumption by industry.  Each unit of production requires less
water, and the water that is returned to the natural cycle is cleaner and more appropriate for
reuse.  This "eco-efficiency" is an inherent component of sustainable development.  WBCSD has
developed and been a strong advocate of eco-efficiency, a concept which implies that industry
must be concerned not only with economic performance but with ecological performance as well.

                       VI.   CASE STUDIES

24.  The following sample cases demonstrate how some industries have contributed to an on-going revolution in water management.

Case 1. Millar Western - A Zero-Effluent Pulp Mill - CANADA

25.  The most challenging environmental problem for pulp mills involves polluted effluent
discharged into natural water systems.  When Millar Western decided to build a new pulp mill at
Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan in western Canada, the company faced an unusually difficult
situation.  The area was blessed with high quality aspen pulpwood, access to power, good
transportation and a quality work force.  But one piece of the puzzle needed to be found.  The
Beaver River, the only water source available, had an extremely low flow and in winter the entire
river froze.  The river was virtually a pristine water body which it was judged could not accept
effluents from a pulp factory no matter how clean.

26.  So the company made a strategic decision to try to close the loop and go for zero effluent
discharge.  Water recycling is extensively practiced in the pulp and paper industry.  But the degree
to which water systems can be closed is always limited by the build-up of contaminants in the
system.  The bleached chemi-thermomechanical pulp (BCTMP) used by Millar Western allowed
organic extractives and inorganic salts to enter the wastewater at the rate of 200 kilograms per
ton of pulp.  In order to recycle wastewater, these residues must be removed.

27.  The company chose the evaporation process.  Every drop of wastewater is collected and
solids removed by sedimentation and floatation.  The clarified liquid is then evaporated to produce
clean distillate which can be recycled back into mill processes.

28.  The solid residue is then concentrated and burned in a recovery boiler.  The inorganic
fraction, 84% sodium carbonate, is solidified into ingots and stored at a secure land fill.  The
company is currently working with research organizations to find ways to convert the salt into
caustic soda or peroxide which could then be recycled back into the mill.

29.  Millar Western and its consultant, NLK Consultants Inc., chose the evaporative process in
1992.  Just 24 months later the plant came on line and within budget.  Four months later the plant
was producing high quality pulp at an average rate of 710 tons per day, in excess of design
capacity of 680 tons per day.  Now five years later, production and quality have never been
affected by the zero effluent treatment system.  Company officials say that reliability of their
treatment system exceeds that of biological control systems and that operating costs are
competitive with conventional treatment.

30.  The company takes pride in never having to worry about upgrading their effluent control
systems to meet new legislative requirements.  As Peter Knorr, Executive Vice President and
Chief Operating Officer , says, "It's kind of hard to beat a zero effluent discharge rate!"  Now
NLK and Millar Western are exploring modifications to the process to permit its use in kraft
pulping and other non-pulp industrial applications.

31.  Lessons Learned:

     (a)  Dedicated management, supported by competent consultants and outstanding staff
enabled one company to make a breakthrough and reduce effluents to zero.

     (b)  Such innovation may give the company a competitive advantage or even create
new market opportunities.

     (c)  The low flow Beaver River remains pristine despite the siting of a major industrial

Contact Person for further information: Janet Millar, Communications Manager - tel. 001 403 486
2444; fax 001 403 489 0512

Case 1a. The Technology Component - Parkson Corporation's Contribution to the Zero
Effluent Mill - CANADA

32.  Before Millar Western recycled its biologically treated wastewater, there was an additional
step before the water was reused.  The water, up to 3 million gallons per day, is filtered through
Parkson's DynaSand  Filter to remove any remaining suspended solids before membrane
filtration and evaporation.  The DynaSand , originally developed by the Axel Johnson Institiute,
is uniquely suitable for this application as it is continuously self-cleaning, delivering recycled water
without interruption 24 hours per day.

Case 2. Water Management at a Paper Mill - UPM - Kymmene - FINLAND

33.  The previous case dealt with a new pulping mill using a chemi-thermomechanical process. 
This case deals with an older mill turning chemical (sulphite) pulp into thermomechanical pulp and
integrated paper.  The J„ms„nkoski mill has more than one hundred years experience in making
high quality paper.  The mill takes its water from the Kankarisvesi lake in central Finland.  The
water flows from peat bogs and is contaminated with decaying biological matter.  Although the
incoming water quality is judged satisfactory by Finnish government standards, it must be
pretreated to meet the mill's demanding production standards.

34.  Discharge water from the mill flows into the J„ms„ river which is a major tributary to Lake
P„ij„nne, the second largest lake in Finland and a major source of drinking water for the Helsinki
metropolitan area.  In 1980 it was determined that water quality in the upper reaches of the Lake
was poor or barely passable.  There was no immediate threat to the drinking water supply, but this
condition could not be allowed to expand or even continue.  

35.  In 1981, the feedstock for the paper mill was changed from chemical to thermomechanical
pulp.  This enabled the mill to reduce its water consumption by 75%.  Then the mill began
investing in processes for the efficient removal of suspended solids and a biological wastewater
treatment facility.  Table 2.1 shows the dramatic improvements both in reduced water usage and
in three measures of waste water quality.

Table 2.1 Water consumption and effluent quality at J„ms„nkoski







36.  Despite the mill expanding to become the largest in Finland, water consumption declined
dramatically.  In 1995 the mill used 93% less water for each ton of paper produced compared
with 1980 levels.  Simultaneously, the quality of the water effluents improved significantly   96%
reduction in suspended solids for each ton produced; 99.5% reduction in BOD (biological oxygen
demand), and 95% reduction in phosphorous.  These technical results are displayed vividly in
Figure 2.1 below which displays improved water quality in Lake P„ij„nne.  By 1996 all segments
previously classified poor or only passable had been completely upgraded.  The vast majority of
the lake now has water designated as excellent or good.  Only one small segment has water
regarded as "only" satisfactory.  UPM-Kymmene has demonstrated that good water management
can make a difference.

37.  Lessons Learned:

     (a)  It is possible to produce quality paper profitably and still protect downstream water

     (b)  Good water management can reduce water use per unit of product and reduce
pollution to very low levels.

     (c)  Lake water quality can respond rapidly when pollution levels are reduced.

Contact for further information: Hannu Nilsen, Vice President, Environment - UPM-Kymmene, 
tel. 00358 20 416 111, fax. 00358 20 416 2219

Case 3. Danfoss A/S - Managing an Underground Aquifer - DENMARK

38.  Danfoss, a manufacturer of hermetic compressors, pumps, valves, motors and other
electrical control units has a major manufacturing facility located on a small island, Als in the
Baltic Sea.  In 1983 the company was routinely withdrawing 2 million cubic meters of fresh water
from the sole aquifer supplying the entire island which is home to 50,000 residents.  This was well
within the limit of 3 million cubic meters authorized by local officials.

39.  In 1983, Danfoss discovered a crack in a settling tank in its wastewater treatment system. 
The company was concerned that polluted water might permeate down into the fresh water
supply.  The company repaired the leak immediately but began an extensive investigation of the
groundwater and the aquifer.  The good news was that the leak had not polluted the aquifer; the
bad news was that the level of the aquifer had dropped dangerously low.  So low in fact that the
danger of salt water intrusion had become a real possibility.  Danfoss management recognized that
they were the major fresh water user on the entire island and as such they had a responsibility to
the 50,000 private citizens who used this common resource.

40.  The company initiated a series of water savings programs and completely revised their
wastewater treatment system.  All pipes were placed above ground so even the smallest leak
could be detected immediately.  In 1989 the local authorities reduced the permissible water
extraction rate for Danfoss down to 2 million cubic meters.  Danfoss, however, had already
reduced their use rate to below 1 million cubic meters.

41.  Despite increasing production levels, Danfoss continued to find ways to reduce water
consumption even further.  By 1994, Danfoss had reduced its water consumption to 0.4 million
cubic meters, a reduction of over 80% compared with 1983 levels.  During this same period the
level of the aquifer rose by 1.7 meters and the threat of salt water intrusion virtually disappeared. 
The substantial improved freshwater reserves indicates a consumption level that can be sustained
indefinitely.  Fresh water supply was assured both for the company, its 7,000 employees and their
50,000 neighbors on the island of Als.  Results are shown below:

                            Table 3.1


Process water


Cooling water


Sanitary water



Total Consumption


Upper level of
Metres over

 lower magazine 1)
sea level

1)   The variation over years depends on rainfall, ambient temperature/evaporation rate
     and water consumption

                           Graph 3.1

42.  The following table lists the principle actions taken by Danfoss to reduce fresh water
  Table 3. 2.  Initiatives to Reduce Fresh Water Consumption:
     the company's top management gave priority attention to the water situation 
         including supply, quality, consumption, and reuse;
        top management developed a sustainable water policy;
     management sought to motivate and involve all employees in good household
                        practices for water; 
     reviewed all technical installations and processes using fresh water;
     modernized the control systems making it possible to save water and reduce
     assured quality of recirculation cooling water to enhance cooperation
     between technical personnel using water and company environmental

43.  Lessons Learned

     (a) Companies can continue to expand production and remain profitable while
reducing fresh water consumption;

     (b) Reducing fresh water consumption involves basic housekeeping, management
attention, technology innovation and commitment from all employees.

     (c) This company reduced water consumption by 80%.

Contact for further information: Lars F. J rgensen, Danfoss, tel. 0045 7 488 2266; fax. 0045 7
488 5907.

Case 4.  Ladish Malting Co. - Linking Industrial Activity to Natural Systems - UNITED

44.  As its name implies, Ladish Malting, a subsidiary of Cargill, located in Spiritwood, North
Dakota, USA processes grain into malt, a key ingredient in beer and other alcoholic beverages. 
This facility uses 1.5 million gallons of water each day in its processes and then discharges most of
this water back into nature.  However, this water first requires treatment.

45.  Managers were interested in low cost ways to clean up this discharge water.  Local
employees, working in partnership with local farmers, Ducks Unlimited (an organization
dedicated to protecting wildfowl), the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Boy Scouts and 4-H
clubs (an American farm youth organization), developed a unique approach.  The idea was to
create a wetlands project to benefit waterfowl and other migratory birds using the Central Flyway,
a main route connecting Canada through the heartland of the United States to warmer climes in
the South.  

46.  Properly managed, wetlands can serve as natural cleansing agents for water contaminated
with excess biological material.  Dumped into rivers, these wastewaters use up oxygen and pose a
threat to fish.  Trickled into wetlands they yield their biological nutrients to the plants occupying
the natural system.  The water flows slowly through the wetland being cleaned naturally and then
enters a five-acre (2.1 hectares) aerated lagoon for final cleansing.  The clean water is stored in
special holding areas with non-porous clay bottoms and concrete berms.  Finally this water
provides irrigation for 2,400 acres (1,000 hectares) of nearby farm land.

47.  It is a classic win-win situation.  The company reduces its costs, wildlife gain enhanced
habitat, and local farmers obtain low cost irrigation water.  The same fresh water is used three
times for industrial, environmental and agricultural purposes.  

48.  Cargill has announced that they intend to use this model at other plant sites.  It is a useful
concept for symbiosis between food processing industries, natural habitat enhancement and
agricultural uses.

49.  Lessons Learned:

     (a) When wastewater contains only biological materials, natural or man-made wetlands
can provide effective pollution removal in ways that are good for the environment and inexpensive

     (b) There are interesting opportunities to reuse some industrial wastewaters for
irrigation purposes

     (c) Cooperation among governments, non-governmental organizations and industry
can provide mutual benefits for all

Contact for further information: Joseph P. Botos - Ladish Malting  tel. 001 612 742 xxxx; fax 001
612 742 6678

Case 5. Water Management in a Desert Mining Operation - R”ssing Uranium Ltd. -

50.  Minerals, like copper, silver, gold or uranium, are valuable but often difficult to find in
commercial quantities.  Water is a crucial ingredient in the separation processes by which minerals
are extracted from the bulk ore.  Then the wet residues must be moved to safe disposal sites.  In
this case, R”ssing, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, is conducting uranium mining operations in the
Namib Desert, an area of low and erratic rainfalls, extreme temperatures with cold nights and hot
days and strong seasonal winds. 
Figure 5.1 A schematic map which locates the R”ssing Mine along the Atlantic Coast of

51.  R”ssing had two sources of water:

     (a)  Fresh water from NAMWATER, the public water supplier who pumps water from
underground aquifers of the Omaruru and Kuiseb Rivers.  It is important to note that
NAMWATER also supplies drinking water to the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund
less than 70 kilometers west of the mine site.  

     (b)  Brackish water from the Khan River immediately adjacent to the mine site.

52.  In 1980 the company used more fresh water than Swakopmund and Walvis Bay combined
(over 10 million cubic meters per year).  By 1996 the company had reduced its consumption to
2.6 million liters, less than that used by either coastal city.  This case describes how R”ssing
achieved this goal through improved water management and tailings disposal methods.

Figure 5.2 R”ssing water usage as compared with Swakopmund and Walvis Bay

53.  The company could conserve fresh water on the input side by restricting the use of this
high quality water for domestic purposes and limited plant operations while maximizing the use of
brackish water or recycled water for all other purposes. One specific example was the total
replacement of fresh water used in the rodmill by water recycled from the dam.

54.  On the output side, the company had to address two main losses:

     (a) Entrainment   the process by which water is trapped in the disposal tailings -
historical experience indicated that approximately 150 liters of water are lost for every ton of ore

     (b) Evaporation - in the hyperarid climate of the Namib Desert water from the pond
and tailings impoundment area was lost rapidly - every hectare of wetted area could result in a
daily loss of up to 72 cubic meters   that's 72,000 liters

55.  Management was convinced that evaporation was the primary target.  In the original
tailings deposition configuration there was an evaporation pond of 150 hectares at the center and
1,000 hectares of wetted area around the pond.  In 1985 the tailings deposition system was
reorganized to reduce the impoundment area to 760 hectares (a 24% decrease in surface area) and
the pond to 60 hectares (a 60% decrease).  Evaporation rates decreased and more water was
available for re-use.

56.  Then in 1988, the company introduced an improved system in which the impoundment
area was divided into small deposition segments called paddocks.  The liquid from each 40
hectare paddock was drained by a penstock system and excess water shipped to the pond from
where it could be recycled to other processes. In 1995 the penstock was upgraded with special
decanting pump systems and the pond was eliminated.  This increased the recyling rate further
with the water going directly back into operations.  

57.  The results were startling:

     (a) evaporation dropped by 87.5% below 1988 levels (0.29 m3/metric ton in 1988;
0.036 m3/metric ton in 1995)

     (b) use of fresh water dropped by over 50% below 1988 levels (0.55 m3/metric ton in
1980; 0.27 m3/metric ton in 1995)  

     (c) fresh water saved is conservatively estimated at 71 million cubic meters between
1981 and 1995.

Figure 5.3 Trend of fresh water usage rate in m3/metric ton milled between 1988 and 1997.

58.  The paddock system and the decanting also reduced seepage levels.  The company also
constructed several cut-off trenches to capture any seepage and recycle it back into operations. 
Monitoring wells were drilled to record any flows back into the Khan River.  The decanting
system lowered company costs since the number of pumps was reduced from 60 down to 20. 

59.  Over 15 years, the company invested Nambia$53.7 million with cumulative operating
costs of Nambia $117.8 million over the same time frame.  The company estimates resulting
benefits, primarily from reduced water charges, recapture of uranium and acids, and reduced use
of pumps, at Nambia $185.4 million  more than enough to cover all capital charges and operating

60.  Lessons Learned:

     (a) Modification of the waste tailings system and recycling water claimed from this
operation enabled the company to reduce its fresh water consumption by over 50% - ensuring that
its operations would be sustainable over the lifetime of the mine.

     (b) The company program made more fresh water available for urban needs and future
economic development in the coastal region of Namibia.

     (c) The company investments saved over 71 million cubic liters of scarce fresh water
between 1981 and 1995.

     (d) The investment and operating costs were totally offset by benefits accruing to the

Contact for further information - John R. Tjirare, Senior Metallurgist, R”ssing Uranium,
tel.00264 64 520 2209, fax. 00264 64 522026


61.  The 21st Century might well be characterized by increasing competition for finite fresh
water resources.  Continuing today's unsustainable practices will tend to increase the number and
the severity of future droughts and shortages.  

62.  No one sector of society can, acting on its own, eliminate this problem.  Industry, which is
not the main user of water, has financial, technical and management resources to meet most of its
own needs.  However, all sectors need to cooperate if society is to avert or minimize adverse
effects associated with emerging fresh water shortages. 

63.  The elements of a comprehensive water strategy are rather straight forward and apply to
all parties  They include:

     (a) conservation and wise use of the resource base 
     (b) recycling and reuse whenever feasible and economic
     (c) waste treatment to facilitate recycle and reuse options
     (d) water basin and water catchment management to allocate scarce resources most
     (e) management of underground water and aquifer systems
     (f) phasing out of inappropriate subsidies which encourage unwise use of scarce water

64.  The sample case studies presented indicate that industry has already begun to manage
industrial water use more effectively.  Improved waste water treatment  facilitates recycle and
reuse within companies and by other downstream users.  One future task is to continue raising
awareness within the business community and encourage others  to take action now.  The UNEP -
WBCSD report, now being prepared, is one vehicle for disseminating important messages about
wise use of fresh water.  A second task, one shared by industry and UNEP, is disseminating more
information about Eco-Efficiency and  Cleaner Production in general and specifically with fresh
water use in mind.  A related task is fostering the idea of "eco-efficiency", an idea developed and
advocated by WBCSD, which implies doing more with less and finding "win-win" situations that
are good for both profits and the environment.  Both ICC and WBCSD continue to support
actively these important initiatives.

65.  But as this paper makes clear, agricultural is the great user, waster and polluter of water.
However, the issue of economic pricing of water, both in agriculture and domestic use, remains
primarily a government and public policy issue. Subsidies should be  phased out since they
encourage waste and prevent  better  management of  finite fresh water resources.  

66.  The 1992 Dublin Principle was clear and correct,  "Water has an economic value in all
its competing uses and should be recognized as an economic good."

67.  The Comprehensive Assessment of Freshwater Resources for the World, prepared for the
Commission for Sustainable Development in 1997 stated, - "Water is an economic good.  Its
economic values should be given due attention when appropriating scarce water resources
among competing uses, without infringing on the basic rights of water service for all people at
affordable prices."

68.  ICC and the WBCSD support these statements and urge governments to get on with the
task of implementing these sound concepts.  

This document has been posted online by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.

Date last posted: 8 December 1999 15:15:30
Comments and suggestions: DESA/DSD