In the Dalles, Google wants to build two more data centers. Some people are worried that there eventually won’t be enough water for everyone, including area farms and fruit orchards. To keep hot-running equipment cool the centers use millions of gallons of water per day. As the tech companies build and expand data centers there has been some mild pushback in the US. The conflict is likely to grow as water becomes a more precious resource amid the threat of climate change.
Some tech giants have constantly been researching & developing to find less impactful cooling methods. As per the experts, the companies can still do more to be environmentally sustainable. The concerns are understandable in The Dalles. It is suffering extreme and exceptional drought. The hottest days of summer were recorded by the region in the last summer where the temperature reached 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
The region is adjacent to the Columbia River. But the new data centers won’t be able to use that water. They would have to depend on water from groundwater and rivers through the city’s water treatment plant. The town residents are not aware of how much water the new data centers will use. The company has not revealed any details as it is their trade secret.
According to the public works director for The Dalles, when the company purchased the land, it obtained the rights to 3.9 million gallons of water per day. The company is requesting less water for the new data centers than that amount. It will also transfer those rights to the city. The company has said that it’s “committed to the long-term health of the county’s economy and natural resources. We’re excited that we’re continuing conversations with local officials on an agreement that allows us to keep growing while also supporting the community.”
30% of the world’s data centers are in the US. Some of the data centers are trying to be efficient in water usage. Facebook’s 1st data center used the cold high-desert air in Prineville, Oregon, to chill its servers. Microsoft built a small data center. While choosing a location for data centers, tech companies consider the availability of cheap electricity and land and consider tax breaks. The data centers need to consider water impacts in a more serious manner and build data centers in regions where they can be better sustained. It’s also a risk and resilience issue that data centers and their operators need to face because the West’s drought is expected to worsen.
At the east of The Dalles, Amazon gives back some of the water used by its data centers. Mainly in summer water is used by the company and for rest of the years, the servers are air-cooled. About two-thirds of the water used evaporates. The rest water is treated and sent to irrigational canals. Experts appreciate that farms and ranches are getting that water. The only problem the city faced with Amazon’s data centers was that the water treatment plant couldn’t manage to handle the center’s discharge.
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