Here’s a reasonably typical day for many of us in 2019:
You wake up and check your phone for news and messages. During breakfast, you ask your smart speaker about the weather and listen to streaming radio. As you drive to work, you use a navigation app and listen to a podcast. During the workday, you use email, save files to the cloud and videoconference with colleagues around the world. You stream music while working and check your social media accounts a few times. Back home at night, you video-chat with your kid, who’s away at college. Then you watch streaming video, because who has cable anymore anyway? Before bed, you read a book on your e-reader.
You may use some or all of these services in your own life. The point is: In 2019, we use data all day long. That data is processed by data centers, the buildings full of servers that are strewn around the world by the thousands and keep the cloud humming. Those servers produce heat, so data centers must be cooled. Most use water for that. Typically, that takes about eight million gallons per year just for one data center. And that’s where the rubber hits the road.
You see, water is not as cheap and plentiful as you may think. In fact, water scarcity is increasingly the new normal in many parts of the world. And it’s not just California or Texas, or Mumbai, Beijing and Sao Paulo. Just like the current boom in data traffic, water scarcity is occurring in regions all around the world. And because of latency (the time it takes the data you request to reach you), you can’t simply build all your data centers in places that are unaffected. They must be close to users. Bottom line: Data centers simply can’t afford to ignore water risk.
At Ecolab, we’ve been helping data centers develop smart water management practices for quite some time now. And here are a few lessons we’ve learned:
These lessons are crucial, because the world is going to be consuming more data, not less. Smart home devices are proliferating, from connected doorbells to light bulbs and everything in between. In many parts of the world, smartphone adoption is nowhere near saturation. And in the meantime, telecom operators are building super-fast 5G networks that will invite even more data use and creation.
That’s why we need to get this right. Our digital lives depend on it, to say nothing of that even more vital resource – water.
You can find more information in “Water Scarcity Could Put Your Data Center at Risk,” a whitepaper by Ecolab’s Corporate Vice President of Sustainability Emilio Tenuta for the Uptime Institute.