In the latest move to promote environmental sustainability, Amazon Web Services has pledged to replace all water used by its data centers by 2030.
- As the largest cloud-computing provider, Amazon’s data centers use billions of gallons of water.
- Google disclosed last week that it uses 4.3 billion gallons of water yearly. Amazon has not disclosed how much water its data centers use.
- Amazon said that it has plans to replenish groundwater used in California, the U.K., and India, Bloomberg reports.
- Google and Microsoft have already made similar pledges.
Why it’s news
In order to keep the computers at data centers cool enough to function, data centers use significant amounts of both water and electricity. Amazon has shared its energy usage levels in the past, but it has been reluctant to share how much water it uses.
Amazon’s aversion to sharing the amount of water used has resulted in tension in areas around data centers plagued by droughts.
The only insight that Amazon has shared has been to report that the data centers use a quarter liter of water for every kilowatt-hour of electricity used, Bloomberg reports.
Around 20 of Amazon’s data centers use recycled water in their cooling systems. Two of these centers are in California—an area prone to drought. However, using recycled water isn’t always a simple task. If the area’s infrastructure is not properly set up, a data center may not be able to use recycled water.
Backing up a bit
Cities in Sweden and Norway are researching ways to capture heat produced by data centers in order to make use of what was once considered a useless byproduct.
Computer servers at data centers emit vast amounts of heat, which currently dissipates into the air around them. With this new effort from Sweden and Norway, that heat could meet 10% of Stockholm’s heating needs.
Data centers currently account for 1% of the world’s electricity usage. Recycling the heat they emit is one way to reduce their effect on the environment.
Currently, the heat produced by the servers is piped out of the complex and into the open air, but by directing the heat into underground water systems, it can be redirected to heat homes and offices.
Energy company Stockholm Exergi currently buys all waste heat from nearby data centers during the coldest months of winter. The heating method is cheaper than other options and data centers win by being paid to cool off their facilities.