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Did you know that when you search the internet you consume water? Indeed, data centers managed by Google (just like those of other companies) consume water to cool their circuits. The question of precisely “how much” had so far remained open. In late 2022, Google finally decided to publish water usage data for each of its data centers.
Start a Google search, watch a video… Even if we are not always aware of it, all our actions on the Internet consume water. In effect, all of this research and content is data, which is stored in “data centers” or data centers. Concretely, a data center is a place, an infrastructure, which houses many “big computers” to store the famous data. “VSLike your personal computer, data centers generate heat and need to be cooled by air cooling, water cooling, refrigerants, or a combination of these solutions “explains Google in a declaration.
To say that the data on this water consumption was a complete secret until now would be incorrect: environmental reports it had been published by Google. However, data on the exact consumption of each data center was missing. This secrecy had, moreover, given rise to a pitched battle between the newspaper The Oregonian and the town of The Dalles, in Oregon. The newspaper eventually got the numbers and reported that Google’s water usage accounted for more than a quarter of all water used in the city.
The question of location can really be crucial, because not all places face the same water challenges. ” The information itself is of the utmost public interest Ellen Osoinach, an attorney for the Oregon Press Freedom Committee of Journalists’ Local Law Initiative, said The Oregonian, which he represented in the case. ” It is a limited community resource and the West is in a drought situation. There are data centers all over the country and right here in Oregon, and the amount of water they consume is something incredibly important to all water users. “.
15 billion liters of water
Ben Townsend, Global Head of Infrastructure and Water Strategy at Google spoke to the New scientist : explained that the reason for the “secrecy” was not to reveal the computing power available to each data center. Google has now diversified its cooling technologies and locations. Recently, the company therefore decided to put an end to the debate and publish data on the subjectincluding data for each of its data centers.
It is therefore now known that Google’s data centers consume more than 15 billion liters of water every year: or, explains the company by way of comparison, the “water footprint” of 22 golf courses in the southwestern United States United. The average daily consumption is 1,703,250 liters of water. Indirect consumption must be added to these consumptions: depending on the technology on which they depend, power plants can also consume water. However, data centers are also consumers of electricity.
The data center that consumes the most water is Council Bluffs, Iowa, with more than three billion gallons consumed, followed by Mayes County, Oklahoma, with 2.5 billion gallons consumed. These figures seem disproportionate, especially in a context where drought is increasingly felt in some geographical areas. ” We are taking a climate-conscious approach to cooling our data centers while continuing to deliver on our commitments to promote responsible water use and operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 “And yet says Google.
Aaron Wemhoff, a researcher at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, gave his thoughts on the matter to New Scientist. During his research, he found that Google’s data centers had a water use efficiency of about 1.1 liters per kilowatt-hour of energy use. In other words, Google would be about 1.8 liters per kilowatt-hour more efficient than the US industry average.
Regarding water relative to electricity consumption, the scientist also found that Google’s data centers performed better than average, as the impact of water consumption on water availability in areas that supply electricity is taken into account and water. However, doing “better than average” may not be enough, as the industry as a whole is resource intensive…