The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has given Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn permission to siphon off seven million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan, Gizmodo reports. The water will be used to create LCD screens at Foxconn’s new factory in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources has said that Foxconn’s usage will “only amount to a 0.07 percent increase in the total surface water withdrawals from Lake Michigan.” Roughly 2.7 million gallons of the water — about 39 percent — will be lost. The remainder will be treated and returned to the lake.
For some environmentalists, the problem isn’t about the amount of water that will be diverted, but the precedent it sets for future uses of public waterways. They argue this will make it easier for companies to work around environmental regulations.
“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,” Jennifer Giegerich, the government affairs director for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters said during a hearing.
The Foxconn situation is unusual in that under most circumstances, such a diversion would have required the agreement of the governors of the eight states which surround the Great Lakes. Foxconn was able to get around this requirement due to the location where the request was filed.
The new factory is located in Mount Pleasant, a small town located outside the Great Lakes basin. Such communities have to meet stricter diversion requirements than those within the basin. Therefore, the request was filed by the city of Racine. Due to the fact that Racine is located within the basin, the city made the argument that the waters were being diverted for “public water supply purposes.”
When it granted the request, the Department of Natural Resources did acknowledge that the diversion would include the Foxconn facility.
Conservation groups have fiercely opposed this decision. Representatives from such organizations argue that the diversion request goes against the spirit of the Great Lakes Compact and should have undergone a stricter review process. Several of these organizations have pledged to challenge the decision.