What steps can be taken by data centres to decrease their water consumption?

The increasing reliance on data in the world has led to a rise in the number of data centres. Unfortunately, this growth is causing negative effects such as higher levels of energy and water waste. The issue of sustainability was not a priority that long ago, however, the situation is now changing due to multiple drivers including increasing government targets, the cost of energy, water and consumer pressure.

There is much that can be achieved through the use of water treatment, purification and recycling technologies. Many Data Centres use large volumes of water that can be reduced by introducing rainwater harvesting and by recycling process water as over 70% of process water can be recycled. As an example, Google has been utilizing their rainwater to help cool data centres in their offices around the world. Water is also used throughout their value chain, in the manufacturing of both consumer hardware products and data centre equipment.

The most effective method for reducing water consumption in data centres is to utilize recycled water, similar to Google. The optimal approach is to reuse water from processes and rainwater. The larger the system, the greater the savings: around £2 per recovered cubic meter of water. With some of the largest data centres using thousands of cubic meters of water per day, this results in significant cost savings. In fact, the initial investment in the water recycling system can be recouped in less than six months.

Similarly, improving the efficiency of existing evaporative cooling systems can help to reduce both energy and water consumption. For example, optimising cycles of concentration, to recover water that is otherwise waster after blowdown water, and thus reducing the volume of make-up water required, can be achieved by carefully planned water treatment programmes.

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