Quincy, WA Spending Big Bucks on Recycling Water for Data Centers, But It's Just a Drop in the Bucket

Photo via bugeaters via Flickr CC

Quincy, Washington loves data centers. The facilities put up by Microsoft, Intuit and Yahoo!, and the coming facility by Sabey Corp have all been a boon to the city's economy. But what isn't so appealing is the sheer amount of water the data centers demand for cooling. So, the city is shelling out $9 million to set up water recycling to help lighten the data centers' demand on the water supply. But what are data centers doing to contribute?City Pours In Money, Saves Water
According to The Wenatchee World, the data centers have been great for bringing in construction jobs, and the extra tax revenue has been great for local libraries, city parks and other municipal services. However, the massive facilities are a drain on water resources.

So, they've decided to invest $9 million in a water reclamation project that will provide recycled water to the facilities. The project will pull water from the sewers, clean it up, and provide that to the three massive data center facilities, and the fourth one on its way.

When complete, the water reclamation facility will be able to treat up to 5 million gallons a day. [Mayor Jim] Hemberry said the city only has a right to use 3.2 million gallons a day, but if it recycles industrial water to serve the data centers, that will free up potable water for other uses, including new industries.

What's The Big Picture in Data Center Resource Consumption?
Because the ultimate value of the data centers to the city is so great, and because water is is simply a precious resource, putting out this kind of money to lighten the impact is well worth the investment.

But it also underscores the importance of designing data centers that are far more efficient in their resource use, both in energy consumption and water use. The Internet Communications Technology Industry is estimated to be responsible for 2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, with data centers responsible for a quarter of that. They also suck up 0.5% of the world's electricity.

While that doesn't sound like much, in terms of percentage, it does when you look at it in terms of power plants; growth in electricity used by data centers between 2008 and 2010 will be equal to ten new power plants. What's worse, with the rapid growth in demand for information storage, especially in places like China and India, worldwide carbon emissions from data centers is projected to quadruple by 2020.

What Are IT Companies Doing to Help?
IBM is working on a data center that will use 50% less energy than standard facilities, and SUN Microsystems recently opened a super efficient data center in Colorado. Microsoft has opened up its best practices for data centers to the industry so that everyone can get on board and be more efficient with the earth's resources and cut down on the carbon footprint of the IT industry - something Greenpeace is also pressing for.

All data centers need to use these types of facilities as the minimum standard, and not rely on cities to foot the cash for afterthought fixes. Whether it's sensors and algorithms, or shipping containers as facilities, or using wave power as an alternative energy source, designing data centers around resource and energy efficiency is vital.

More on Data Center Efficiency
Intel Challenges Data Center Pros for Efficiency Ideas
PG&E; Gives a $1.4 Million Rebate for Green Data Center
The Green Grid Gets Specific With New Datacenter Energy Efficiency Guidelines

Tags: Computing | Corporate Responsibility | Energy Efficiency | Environmental Footprint | Water Crisis


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