Racine submits 7 million gallon daily water diversion request for Foxconn

More than 2 million gallons could evaporate from plant daily

The site Foxconn Technology Group has selected for its 20 million-square-foot campus.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:12 pm

Foxconn Technology Group could have used 20.6 million gallons of water per day for its manufacturing process, but the company told Racine officials its recycling plans will reduce its average manufacturing use to just 3 million gallons, according to documents submitted to the Department of Natural Resources.

The site Foxconn Technology Group has selected for its 20 million-square-foot campus.
Curtis Waltz/Aerialscapes.com

The city of Racine is seeking approval from the DNR to divert an average of 7 million gallons per day outside the Great Lakes basin. Most of that water, would be for Foxconn, but 1.2 million gallons would go to other commercial and industrial users in the area around Foxconn. Racine pumped on average of 17 million gallons per day in 2016, about one third of its authorized capacity.

The company plans to use a total of 5.8 million gallons per day and will repeatedly recycle water to limit demand. In addition to the 3 million gallons for manufacturing, the company needs 2.4 million gallons for cooling and 500,000 gallons for domestic uses.

“This is a (Great Lakes basin line) straddling community diversion request, not a request for approval to withdraw more water from Lake Michigan,” said Keith Haas, Racine Water Utility general manager. “If approved, the diversion will have little if any impact on Lake Michigan water volume or quality. The water utility already has the approved withdrawal capacity and the existing treatment infrastructure to support it.”

Jenny Trick, Racine County Economic Development Corp. executive director, said the application would benefit the entire region.

“If approved, the diversion will support broader I-94 corridor development, creating even more Racine County jobs, patrons and residents, while protecting our area’s greatest natural resource,” Trick said in a statement.

When Wisconsin first started bidding on the Foxconn project, the company indicated it would need 8.7 million gallons of water per day for what was at the time a smaller project. Some critics have said the plans had suggested Foxconn would use as much as 15 million gallons per day, but Racine County officials said in October the demand had been scaled back significantly.

About 2.5 million gallons of the diverted water would not make it back to Lake Michigan, under the plans submitted by Racine. That includes more than 2 million gallons of water that would evaporate daily as part of a cooling process.

Mount Pleasant is considered a straddling community under the 2008 Great Lakes Compact since it is partially within the Great Lakes basin and partially in the Mississippi River basin. The location of the Foxconn plant itself actually straddles the subcontinental divide between the two basins.

New diversions of Great Lakes water to straddling communities only need approval from the DNR as long as there is less than 5 million gallons of new consumptive use. The city of Waukesha’s request for Lake Michigan water required the approval of the other Great Lakes states because it is entirely outside of the Great Lakes basin, although Waukesha County straddles the basin line.

Racine is projecting the Foxconn diversion will generate about 2.7 million gallons of consumptive use per day, with 2.1 million gallons lost to evaporation in the cooling process accounting for the majority. Another 400,000 gallons would be lost in the company’s manufacturing process, 100,000 gallons would be lost to domestic uses and the same amount would be lost by other developments in the diversion area.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.