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As of: 2:12 AM, 1/17/21

Water

Our Conservation Plans are Water Tight

Here in Michigan, our lakes, rivers and streams define us. We’re beach-goers, anglers and stone-skippers. We’re committed to keep this precious resource thriving for centuries to come.

That’s why we’re determined to watch every drop of water we use to produce and deliver energy. We're working to save 1 billion gallons of water over five years. Since 2017, we’ve reduced our water use by more than 400 million gallons by activities such as:

-Collecting and reusing water that runs off coal piles at our power plants.

-Reducing the amount of water used to safely handle and move residuals created by combusting coal.

-Developing a new process to reuse and save water while drilling to replace and install new pipes.

We’ve been harnessing the power of water to produce electricity for more than a century. It’s clean, renewable and naturally abundant in our state. We operate 13 hydroelectric plants along five rivers, including the Au Sable, Manistee and Muskegon. Water is also the key energy source for the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant. It runs on water from Lake Michigan, stored in a 27-billion-gallon reservoir. Our fossil-fueled power plants need water too, primarily for cooling, condensing and reusing steam used to spin the turbines to generate electricity.

Steam electric generation accounts for much of the water we use, so we’ve been cutting back and recycling water wherever feasible at existing plants and making water conservation a priority when we consider new generation sources. We set a goal of reducing our water intensity 20% by 2020. We then met, and surpassed, that goal in 2019 by reducing water intensity 43%. This is based on 2012 water intensity levels—measured by gallons per megawatt hour and corresponds to a reduction of around 780 million gallons a day. Fluctuations in water intensity can occur due to increased dispatch of our generating facilities or unit outages. While we do project water intensity greater than 2019 levels through 2039, we anticipate an overall reduction of 99% by 2040 due to the final retirement of all coal fired power plants.


In addition to water intensity, we are also tracking water use. As shown below, we realized a 46% water use reduction after retirement of our ‘Classic Seven’ turbines in power plants across the state in 2016: Two at the B.C. Cobb in Muskegon, two at the D.E. Karn/J.C. Weadock Generating Complex in Essexville near Bay City, and three at the J.R. Whiting Generating Complex in Luna Pier. With future unit retirements we project an overall water use reduction of 99% by 2040.

When we realized in 2017 that we would exceed our 20% water intensity reduction by 2020, we pursued a goal of improving water stewardship practices. Efforts were put in place to improve our water stewardship including reuse or recycle options for projects with water requirements, and management of water-intensive systems with efforts to reduce run time of such equipment where possible. These efforts were wrapped into a new 5-year breakthrough target, set during 2018, to reduce our water use by one billion gallons.

This target is intended to drive progress towards a company-wide culture change around water stewardship and enables the entire Company to get involved to reduce the environmental impact of operations and see opportunities and benefits of analyzing water risk of activities. At the start of 2018 we were projecting a gap of 14% by the end of 2022; however, due to continuous improvement and ideas generated throughout the company we expect to exceed our 2022 target by over 20%.

Michigan Fish are Blue Ribbon Winners

The health of fish and other aquatic animals is among our top priorities. To ensure their continued vitality, we regularly monitor water quality in our reservoirs and downstream of our hydroelectric facilities. We make certain the water temperature and dissolved oxygen levels remain at healthy levels.

At some reservoirs - where cold and oxygen-saturated water is in short supply at the end of a long, hot summer - we’ve installed a special type of equipment called an “upwelling system.” It uses compressed air to draw colder water from the bottom of the reservoir up so it can pass through the hydro plant and cool the outflow waters. Thanks to these and other measures, Michigan’s waters are home to blue ribbon trout and some of the best tail water trout fisheries in the eastern U.S.

We play a key role in Great Lakes water conservation issues through continued participation in several State of Michigan work groups and international commissions, including representing Michigan electric and gas utilities at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Water Use Advisory Council and Wetlands Advisory Council. We also have participated in a workshop hosted by the International Joint Commission (IJC) to develop ecological indicators to measure the efficacy of actions taken under the renewed Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada. Through these efforts, we look forward to continuing our protection and stewardship of Michigan's waters and the Great Lakes.

Watching Over Michigan’s Water

We're also supporting On the Water, a new, nonprofit initiative to help Michigan residents connect with their waterways through volunteer cleanup efforts with a focus on education, outreach and recycling. On the Water was launched with support from the Consumers Energy Foundation, which awarded the program a $100,000 Planet Award grant in 2019. And the initiative is already making a positive impact from Sault St. Marie to the Saginaw Bay. Read more here.