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Water abstraction and water use in Sweden 2020:

Levels of water use by industry remain unchanged

Statistical news from Statistics Sweden 2021-10-15 9.30

Water use in industry amounted to 2 097 million m3 in 2020. This means that water use by industry remains largely unchanged compared with the latest measurement, in 2015.

The industry sector is the largest water user in Sweden and accounts for around two-thirds of total water use in society. Following relatively high levels in the postwar period, water use in the industry sector decreased sharply in the 1970s, and subsequently levelled off.

Likely causes of the decline in water use in the long-term perspective include structural transformation of the manufacturing industry, in which some water-intensive industries moved from Sweden, combined with the introduction of more water-efficient production processes. Since the 1980s, water use has remained relatively stable, with only minor variations between surveys.

The previous survey, conducted in 2015, showed that total use of water in industry was estimated at 2 116 million m3, which is on a level with the results in 2020. This means that there is no discernible direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the use of water by industry.

Total water use by industry, 1983-2020


Source: Statistics Sweden

Surface water is the dominant water category

Surface water abstracted from own sources is the clearly dominant water category in the industry sector. About 61 percent of the abstracted water originates from enterprises’ own surface water sources, while ground water accounts for only about 1 percent.

Seawater also accounts for a significant share of water abstraction, although it is primarily linked to certain parts of the industry sector and is used mainly for cooling purposes.

Purchased water has increased

Purchased water from public water supply or other companies, comprise a relatively small share of total water abstraction by industry. However, this year's survey shows a clear increase in the share of purchased water compared with the latest measurement in 2015. In 2015, purchased water accounted for 7 percent of total water abstraction by industry, while in 2020, purchased water accounted for 9 percent.

Water abstraction by industry, 2020 by type of water


Source: Statistics Sweden

Pulp and paper industry the largest user

As in previous surveys, the statistics show that some parts of the industry sector are far more water-intense than others. The pulp and paper industry accounts for the largest levels of abstraction and use - roughly 840 million m3.

The manufacture of chemicals and chemical products and the steel and metal works industries also use large volumes of water. Taken together with the pulp, paper and paper products industries, water abstraction in these industries accounts for 80 percent of total water abstraction in the industry sector.

Definitions and explanations

For the purpose of this survey, the industry sector was defined as the local units in Statistics Sweden's business register with SNI 2007 codes 07-33 (mining and quarrying industries and manufacturing industries) with at least ten employees. Local units in parts of the energy sector, that is parts of SNI (NACE) 35, are also included. In the energy sector, hydropower was excluded in accordance with EU guidelines. Nuclear power plants were included in the survey, but not in the overall report of abstraction and use of water in the industry sector. This is due to very large direct abstraction of sea water by nuclear power plants, which, if included, would complicate reporting and interpretation of the statistics. Figures for nuclear power plants are presented separately in the report.

Water abstraction refers to water that enterprises abstract from their own water supply or that they purchase from the municipality or other enterprises.

Water use refers to water that is actually used in production in some way. Water abstraction may be greater than water use. This is largely due to the inclusion of drainage water from mines and quarries in water abstraction, although it is only included in water use if the drainage water is actually reused. A considerable share of drainage water returns to the natural cycle without being used.


Statistical Database

More information is available in the Statistical Database

Feel free to use the facts from this statistical news but remember to state Source: Statistics Sweden.

Statistical agency

Statistics Sweden


Jerker Moström

+46 10 479 40 31