Skip to content

Are Data Centres Going To Use Raw Water?

Network Servers at Data Center

Thames Water has said that it wants to work with data centres in its jurisdiction to enable them to use raw water rather than drinking quality water for cooling. 

Switching To Raw Rather Than Drinking Quality Water

Just as the drought has led Thames Water to introduce a hosepipe ban affecting 15 million customers in the southeast (including London and the Thames Valley area), the company is investigating how switching data centres to raw, non-drinking water could help with supply. 

What Is Raw Water?

Raw water describes untreated water from the environment, such as rainwater and groundwater (surface water), water from infiltration wells, and water from lakes and rivers. 

What’s The Problem With Data Centres?

Currently, most data centres rely on water for cooling and use vast amounts of it. In the US, for example, in early 2020, in Red Oak, just south of Dallas, a legal filing indicated that Google may have needed as much as 1.46 billion gallons of water a year for its data centre in 2021. In the UK, it was reported that a newly proposed data centre in Slough had applied to use 25 litres of drinking water per second (now reduced by using on-site water storage). Not only are data centres huge water users, but they also need substantial amounts of electricity. For example, a recent Greater London Authority’s (GLA) Development Service briefing note (West London electrical capacity constraints) claimed that a rapid influx of server farms along the M4 corridor is causing electricity capacity issues in the London boroughs of Ealing, Hillingdon, and Hounslow. It has also been reported that the electricity needs of these new data centres mean that developers of major housing, commercial, and industrial developments may now have to wait several years to have the developments hooked up to the grid – something which some councils deny. Unfortunately, trying to reduce the amount of water that data centres use may also push up their electricity requirements even more. 

Raw Water May Help

The “targeted exercise” by Thames Water to focus on data centres with the idea of working with them to help them use raw instead of drinking quality water is, therefore, seen by some as a way to protect supplies at a time of drought and improve the situation in the future when there will be more data centres and probably more climate change heatwaves. Critics, however, have suggested that the data centre industry is being scapegoated and have asked what Thames Water is doing about losing 600 million litres of water a day (nearly a quarter of its daily supplies), e.g. through leaks. 

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It would make sense to develop lasting systems for utilising supplies other than drinking water for data centre cooling, particularly with more droughts likely in the future, plus the fact more data centres are being built. However, water companies also need to work on and invest in their infrastructure and retain their supplies (i.e. reducing leaks). Therefore, a collaborative effort between water companies and data centres could be a helpful approach. In addition, most businesses now rely heavily upon technology and the cloud, particularly remote working. Hence, solutions to the large water and electricity demands of data centres need to be found soon. Ideas like using two-phase immersion cooling for servers and using data centres submerged beneath the sea (Microsoft) have been tried, and other innovative ideas may follow. Still, the hope for businesses is that scalable, workable solutions will be found soon to avoid costly and damaging outages in future and maintain drinking water supplies.

room with rows of server hardware in the data center

Wondering what to do now? If you want to find out more about Our companies press the buttons below.

Other Posts in this Category

Getting Rid Of Microplastics with a Robot Fish

Getting Rid Of Microplastics with a Robot Fish

A prototype of an award-winning robotic fish design that filters water to trap micro plastics has now been tested in

‘Matter’: What Is It?

‘Matter’: What Is It?

Here we look at what Matter 1.0 is, its advantages for the IoT and setting up a smart home (or

Learn More about Voice Commands and Speech recognition

Learn More about Voice Commands and Speech recognition

In this insight, we look at how you can use voice commands to carry out tasks in Windows, plus how

New WhatsApp Features: ‘Communities’, In-Chat Polls and more

New WhatsApp Features: ‘Communities’, In-Chat Polls and more

Meta’s WhatsApp has announced the global rollout of its ‘Communities’ feature along with in-chat polls, 32-person video calls, and groups

Could ‘PimEyes’ be used for Stalking and Unlawful surveillance?

Could ‘PimEyes’ be used for Stalking and Unlawful surveillance?

Privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch has filed a complaint to the ICO that the face recognition search engine PimEyes

Is The End Coming For Forever Chemicals?

Is The End Coming For Forever Chemicals?

In what could be a huge step forward for environmental clean-ups, a team of researchers from the University of Washington