From Lake Michigan To Foxconn's LCD Screens

Interview: Electronics Plant's Water Needs Will Require Extensive Infrastructure
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Illustration by Scott Gordon; photo by Amy Meredith (CC BY-ND 2.0)

No one knows yet for sure how much water Foxconn's planned electronics manufacturing plant in Mount Pleasant will need for its daily operations, but just getting it there will be a big job.

Foxconn and local officials will have to transport massive amounts of water to the $10 billion LCD screen manufacturing plant and treat the facility's wastewater before it's returned into the environment. One analyst has estimated the plant will use as much as 15 million gallons a day — enough to serve a small city. The company intends to get its supply of water from Racine's public utility, which draws from Lake Michigan.

Observers have drawn parallels between Foxconn's water needs and that of the city of Waukesha, which plans to begin using about 8 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan to replace its radium-tainted groundwater supplies. Waukesha became the first city outside of the Great Lakes Basin to be allowed access to Great Lakes water in 2016. However, this approval was not an easy task to accomplish. The city spent years navigating the complex Great Lakes Compact to get permission, and isn't set to actually start using that water until 2023.

Foxconn will likely turn on the faucet much sooner. Since the tech giant plans to buy its water from Racine, a city that's already entitled to use Great Lakes water, it's largely up to the state to enforce the rules of the compact. The state legislature streamlined this processes in the incentives package it put together to initially entice Foxconn to Wisconsin.

WisContext associate editor Scott Gordon discussed Foxconn's water infrastructure needs and planning on the Oct. 26, 2017 edition of Wisconsin Public Radio's Central Time.

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