Stewardship of water is a big deal around here. Its use is integral to our business. We treat it as the precious resource it is. Steam electric generation accounts for much of the water we use, so that’s where we’re focusing much of our immediate attention. That means 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 use by 20% in 2020, then met and surpassed that goal in 2018 by reducing use 35% This is based on 2012 water intensity levels—measured by gallons per megawatt hour, and corresponds to a reduction of around 550 million gallons a day. Here’s how we got there:
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 Lake Michigan water, stored in a 27-billion gallon reservoir. Our fossil-fueled power plants need water too, primarily for condensing and reusing steam used to spin the turbines to generate electricity.
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.
When road development threatened a fragile dune ecosystem, we worked with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan to preserve the White River Township Barrier Dunes Sanctuary for future generations.