The undervalued water consumption of a Microsoft data center is controversial in the Netherlands

Microsoft said that its data center in Wieringermeer, located in the north of the Netherlands, consumes ‘that’ 12 to 20 million liters of water per year. However, its annual consumption would be at least four times higher.

In 2021, it was around 84 million liters of water, or as much as that of 1,750 Dutch people in one year, according to the local newspaper Noordhollands Dagblad.

This year, it would reach more than 100 million liters, according to an independent expert hired by Microsoft itself, a priori to put an end to the growing controversy in the country.

In this summer period of intense drought, the Dutch government is indeed asking farmers to ration the watering of crops and the population to limit its daily use.

But we are only touching the tip of the iceberg here. There are 27 other data centers in Wieringermeer besides Microsoft’s. According to government estimates, they would have used 550 million liters of drinking water.

The least that can be said is that data centers lack transparency regarding their water consumption, while efforts have been made to communicate on electricity consumption.

Our colleague from Les Echos quotes Arman Shehabi, a Berkeley Lab researcher and author of a study on the environmental footprint of data centers in the United States, who reveals that“a fifth of the direct water footprint of data center servers comes from watersheds under high or moderate water stress”.

However, we know that with global warming, caused by human activity, temperatures will be more and more extreme in the years to come. Recall that last month, scorching temperatures put the British data centers of Oracle and Google Cloud out of service.

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