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Foxconn Just Got Permission to Start Draining Lake Michigan to Make LCD Screens

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources approved a request to divert 7 million gallons of water a day to the area where Foxconn is building its new plant.
Image: Wikipedia

Some of the water required to fuel our technology addictions will soon be siphoned off of Lake Michigan.

Last summer, Taiwan tech giant Foxconn announced plans to build a $10 billion, 20 million-square-foot manufacturing plant in rural Wisconsin to manufacture LCD screens. On Wednesday, the state Department of Natural Resources approved a request by the surrounding township to divert 7 million gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan to the area, mostly to be used by the plant.


Environmental experts have criticized the diversion. Though, as the DNR points out, it amounts to less than a 1 percent increase in the total surface water withdrawals from Lake Michigan, it would result in a loss of 2.7 million gallons per day, mostly due to evaporation (the rest of the water will be treated and then returned to the lake basin). Environmentalists are also concerned that the decision will set a new precedent allowing the fresh water to be used for predominantly commercial purposes, instead of as drinking water.

“If we allow this to happen, it’s going to happen all over the basin, with other states and then it’s going to be the thirsty states and nations to come,” said Jennifer Giegerich, the government affairs director for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, at a public hearing about the diversion, according to the Wisconsin Gazette .

The Great Lakes contain one-fifth of the Earth’s fresh surface water, making them a valuable and precious resource shared by multiple states and Canadian provinces, and collectively managed under the Great Lakes Compact. Opponents say this decision might violate that agreement.

Read more: The Fight Over Who Gets Clean Drinking Water from the Great Lakes

The proposed plant to be located in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin was celebrated by state Governor Scott Walker and President Donald Trump alike. But locally, the community reaction has been more split, and the decision to divert water is only the latest contentious issue. On Tuesday, the DNR granted Foxconn air permits to pump pollutants like volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides into the air. And local residents have reported being forced out of their homes in order for the state to collect the property needed for the plant’s massive footprint. Despite public backlash, the plans to build the plant have mostly gone forward undeterred.