Water consumption in data centers a cause for concern

While Europe is hit by drought, a report published in the Netherlands denounces the increase in water consumption in Microsoft data centers.

It couldn’t have been worse. As Europe is hit by one of the worst droughts in its history, the Dutch press echoes a damning report for data storage centers. Last year, a giant Microsoft data storage center in the north of the country swallowed 84 million liters of water, 4 to 7 times more than was initially announced by the American. Revealed by a local media, Noordhollands Dagblad, confirmed by the government of the Netherlands, the case raises many concerns.

The increase in water consumption is all the more worrying, as it could get even worse this year. Indeed, like most of the latest generation data storage centers, Microsoft’s uses ambient air to cool its servers. This technique, known as “air cooling”, makes it possible to achieve substantial energy savings, since it limits the record to air conditioning. But to work, the outside temperature must be below 25 degrees. When the heat rises, it is necessary to continue to cool the installations, which are very sensitive to variations. For this, Microsoft uses water cooling systems. And the hotter it is, the more data centers consume water. Last year, the temperature exceeded 25 degrees in the region concerned for six days. Summer 2022, this fateful threshold has already been crossed six times since the beginning of August according to the data available on the weatheronline site.

Enough to continue to fuel the debate on the environmental footprint of data centers. Currently, they would consume 4% of the electricity produced in the world according to Wavestone… thus indirectly contributing to global warming! More than ever, the issue of energy efficiency is burning. But other questions arise, in particular related to the uses of digital technology, to each person’s consumption habits.

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