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Water

We Love Michigan’s Water

Here in Michigan, our lakes, rivers and streams define us. We’re beachgoers, anglers and stone skippers. We love our Great Lakes State, and we work to protect its precious water sources while delivering the energy our customers count on.

Most of our water use stems from steam electric generation, so we’ve cut back and recycled water wherever feasible at existing plants. We also prioritize water conservation when considering new generation sources.

Our fossil-fueled power plants use water for cooling, condensing and reusing steam to spin our turbines and generate electricity. The biggest way we’re making a difference is by closing our remaining coal-fired plants as part of our Clean Energy Plan. By 2026, we’ll have reduced our water withdrawals 98% compared to 2012 levels.

But our efforts to conserve water don’t end there. We’ve implemented alternative water use initiatives, such as:

  • Retrofitting equipment at our hydroelectric plants to eliminate water use for noncontact cooling purposes.
  • Installing low-flow water fixtures at all new facilities and as existing facilities are renovated.
  • Using air or nitrogen for pipe pressure testing rather than water when it’s safe to do so.
  • Reducing water through bentonite clay slurry reuse systems for horizontal directional drilling projects, which enables us to reuse water rather than withdrawing the full volume of freshwater we need.

We also prioritize water conservation when we consider new generation sources, which means developing ways to avoid or reuse and save water at our facilities and near gas and electric distribution sites.

Monitoring Water Quality to Protect Aquatic Species

We’ve harnessed the power of water to produce clean and renewable energy for more than a century. 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, which runs on water from Lake Michigan that’s stored in a 27-billion-gallon reservoir. The plant has been called one of the world’s biggest electric batteries because it can store massive amounts of energy to deliver to our customers at a moment’s notice.

The health of fish and other aquatic animals is among our top priorities near our dams and all rivers. To ensure aquatic life’s continued vitality, we regularly monitor water quality in our reservoirs and downstream from our hydroelectric facilities to ensure water temperatures 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 special equipment called an upwelling system. It uses compressed air to draw colder water from the bottom of the reservoir, which passes through the hydro plant and cools outflow waters. Thanks to these and other measures, Michigan’s rivers are home to blue ribbon trout and some of the best tailwater trout fisheries in the eastern U.S.

We also play a key role in Great Lakes water conservation issues through continued participation in State of Michigan work groups and international commissions, including representing Michigan electric and natural gas energy companies at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Water Use Advisory Council.

Water Conservation

We’ve set goals to improve our water stewardship practices. These include reuse and recycling options for projects with water requirements and managing water-intensive systems to reduce equipment runtime when possible.

Our water reduction targets demonstrate progress toward a companywide water stewardship culture change. This enables us to reduce the environmental impacts of operations and see opportunities and benefits of analyzing water-risk activities.

Water use intensity is a measure of the rate of water use in gallons per megawatt-hour of electricity generated. We’re transparent in how much water we use to power Michigan. Fluctuations in water intensity can occur due to increased dispatch of our generating facilities and unit outages. By 2026, when our last coal-fired plants are expected to close, we anticipate an overall water intensity reduction of 97%, compared to a 2012 baseline.

We achieved a 46% water use reduction after the retirement of our Classic Seven generating plants 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 coal plant retirements and the addition of the New Covert Generating Facility into our portfolio, we project an overall water use reduction of 99% by 2040 compared to 2012 levels.

We’ve also saved hundreds of millions of gallons of water through our conservation efforts over the past five years, far outpacing our goals.

For more specifics on our water usage and trends, review our CDP Water Report.