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As of: 6:05 PM, 10/26/21

Water

Our Conservation Plans are Watertight

Here in Michigan, our lakes, rivers and streams define us. We’re beachgoers, anglers and stone skippers. We’re committed to keep these precious resources 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 one billion gallons of water over five years. Since 2017, we’ve reduced our water use by more than 800 million gallons through 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 harnessed 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 that’s stored in a 27billion-gallon reservoir. Our fossil-fueled power plants use water for cooling, condensing and reusing the steam used to spin our turbines to generate electricity.

Steam electric generation accounts for much of the water we use, so we’ve cut back and recycled water wherever feasible at existing plants and make water conservation a priority when we consider new generation sources.

We set a goal to reduce our water intensity 20% by 2020. We then surpassed that goal in 2019 by reducing water intensity 43%. This is based on 2012 water intensity levels—measured by gallons per megawatt hour. That amounts to a reduction of about 780-million gallons a day. Fluctuations in water intensity can occur due to increased dispatch of our generating facilities or unit outages. While we project water intensity greater than 2019 levels through 2039, we anticipate an overall reduction of 99% by 2040 when we retire our last coal-fired plants.

In addition to water intensity, we also track water use. We achieved a 46% water use reduction after the retirement of our “Classic Seven” turbines in power plants across the state in 2016: Two at the B.C. Cobb facility in Muskegon, two at the D.E. Karn/J.C. Weadock Generating Complex 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.

Over the past few years, we’ve pursued a goal to improve our water stewardship practices. Our efforts include reuse and recycling options for projects with water requirements and management of water-intensive systems to reduce run time of equipment when possible. These efforts were wrapped into a new five-year breakthrough target, set during 2018, to reduce our water use by a billion gallons.

Our water reduction targets intend to drive progress toward a company-wide culture change around water stewardship that enables us to get involved to reduce the environmental impact of operations and see the opportunities and benefits of analyzing water-risk activities. At the start of 2018, we projected a gap of 14% by the end of 2022. Due to continuous improvements 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, cold and oxygen-saturated water is in short supply at the end of a long, hot summer, so 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 tailwater 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 Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Water Use Advisory Council and Wetlands Advisory Council. We’ve also 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 continue to protect Michigan’s waters and our Great Lakes.

Watching Over Michigan’s Water

We're also supporting On the Water, a nonprofit initiative to help Michigan residents connect with their waterways through volunteer cleanup efforts. It focuses 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. The initiative is already making a positive impact from Sault St. Marie to the Saginaw Bay.