Google reveals how much water its data centers use

google revele combien eau centres donnees consomment

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Did you know that you consume water when you search the internet? Indeed, the data centers managed by Google (just like those of other companies) consume water to cool their circuits. The question of “how much” precisely had so far remained open. At the end of 2022, Google finally decided to publish water consumption figures for each of its data centers.

Launch a Google search, watch a video… Even if we are not always aware of it, all our actions on the Internet consume water. Indeed, all this research and content is data, which is stored in “data centers”, or datacenters. Concretely, a datacenter is a place, an infrastructure, which hosts many “big computers” to store the famous data. ” VSLike your personal computer, data centers generate heat and must be cooled by air cooling, water cooling, refrigerants or a combination of these solutions “Explains Google in a press release.

To say that the data on this water consumption was a complete secret until now would not be correct: environmental reports had been published by Google. On the other hand, data on the exact consumption of each data center was missing. This secret had given rise to a pitched battle between the newspaper The Oregonian and the town of The Dalles, Oregon. The newspaper eventually got the numbers, and reported that Google’s water consumption accounted for more than a quarter of all water used in the city.

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The question of location can indeed be key, because not all places face the same challenges in terms of water. ” The information itself is of the highest public interest Ellen Osoinach, an attorney for the local legal initiative of the Journalists Committee for Press Freedom for Oregon, told The Oregonian, whom she represented in the case. ” It is a limited community resource and the West is in a drought. 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 : he explained that the reason for the “secrecy” was not to reveal the computing power available for 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 its data on the subject, including the figures for each of its datacenters.

It is therefore now common knowledge that Google’s data centers consume more than 15 billion liters of water each year: that is, the company explains by way of comparison, the “water footprint” of 22 golf courses in the southwestern United States. The average consumption per day is 1,703,250 liters of water. Indirect consumption must be added to this consumption: power plants, depending on the technology on which they depend, can also consume water. However, data centers are also consumers of electricity.

The most water-intensive data center is Council Bluffs, Iowa, with more than three billion liters consumed, followed by Mayes County, Oklahoma, with 2.5 billion liters consumed. These figures seem disproportionate, especially in a context where drought is increasingly felt in certain geographical areas. ” We are taking a climate-conscious approach to cooling our data centers, while continuing to deliver on our commitments to champion responsible water use and operate on carbon-free energy 24/7 by 2030 “Yet says Google.

Aaron Wemhoff, a researcher at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, gave his views 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 more efficient than the US industry average by about 1.8 liters per kilowatt hour.

Regarding water related to electricity consumption, the scientist also found that Google’s data centers performed better than average, since there is a consideration of the impact of water consumption on the availability of water in the areas supplying their electricity and water. However, doing “better than average” might not be enough, as the industry as a whole is very resource intensive…