How much water should an email consume? Data centers and water use

 A mid-sized data center consumes around 300,000 gallons of water a day, or about as much as 1,000 U.S. households;

About 20% of data centers in the United States already rely on watersheds that are under moderate to high stress from drought and other factors;
Operating a data center often requires a tradeoff between water use and energy use;
And in a survey of 122 data centers in the United States, only 16% or 20 utilities reported plans for managing water-related risks.

As professionals working in the field, what can we do to solve this issue? One aspect is developing and using water models that can identify water risks at different scales - so that we can predict the risk to water supplies under a changing climate. A second is using machine learning to identify and optimize water use between all the stakeholders in the watershed - data centers, farmers, cities, other industries - so that biases and needs are brought out into the open and the key issues identified. A third, of course, is developing and implementing technologies that can help reduce water use (for example air cooling instead of water cooling), or increase water availability (desalination or remediation and reuse of non-potable water sources). However, all these come with tradeoffs - using air cooling increases energy use for example - which will need to be identified and articulated while making decisions. And that's where being able to use process models, statistics and machine learning effectively in these situations is so powerful!


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