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Amazon Web Services (AWS) is following in the footsteps of its public cloud rivals, Google and Microsoft, by committing to becoming a water-positive entity by 2030.
This means AWS is committing to ensuring its direct operations return more water to the surrounding environment and communities than they consume, with the cloud giant claiming it is already well on its way to achieving its goal.
The company has adopted the Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE) metric to measure how much water its server farms consume, and claims to have a global WUE figure of 0.25 litres of water per kilowatt-hour.
“As part of this new commitment [AWS] will report annually on its WUE metric, new water reuse and recycling efforts, new activities to reduce water consumption in its facilities, and advancements in new and existing replenishment projects,” the company said in a statement.
To this point, AWS said it is “constantly innovating” its infrastructure to curtail the amount of water it consumes, and is deploying internet of things (IoT) technologies to analyse how much water its operations consume in real time.
Many of its datacentres are able to rely on free-air cooling for 95% of the year, the company continued, and have on-site water treatment systems that allow it to reuse any water its facilities do consume multiple times.
The company also claims it’s the first datacentre operator in Northern Virginia to secure approval to use recycled water in its direct evaporative cooling systems. “AWS already uses recycled water for cooling in 20 datacentres around the world, and has plans to expand recycled water use in more facilities as it works towards becoming water positive,” the AWS statement continued.
Read more about water use by datacentres
- Given that a mid-sized datacentre uses as much water as three average-sized hospitals, green IT needs to start considering water usage.
- Utility provider Thames Water is probing the water consumption habits of datacentres in its jurisdiction, as it seeks collaboration opportunities with the server farm industry to ease pressure on supplies.
Overall, AWS said it’s taking a four-pronged approach to becoming a water-positive company by 2030, with directives focused on improving water efficiency, ramping up its use of sustainable water sources, supporting water replenishment projects and taking steps to return water for community reuse.
AWS CEO Adam Selipsky said water scarcity is a “rapidly growing challenge” that is blighting communities around the globe, which the company is committed to tackling.
“In just a few years, half of the world’s population is projected to live in water-stressed areas, so to ensure all people have access to water, we all need to innovate new ways to help conserve and reuse this precious resource,” he said. “While we are proud of the progress we have made, we know there is more we can do. We are committed to leading on water stewardship in our cloud operations, and returning more water than we use in the communities where we operate. We know this is the right thing to do for the environment and our customers.”
Amazon is far from the only tech giant to set itself a deadline of becoming water positive by 2030, as Microsoft went public with a similar pledge in September 2020 and so did Google in September 2021.
The timing of Amazon’s water positivity commitment coincides with the first day of the AWS Re:Invent partner and customer conference in Las Vegas.
The announcement has also seen AWS outline the work it’s doing from a UK perspective to ensure its operations give back more water than they consume, with the company confirming it is working with The Rivers Trust and Action for the River Kennet to create two wetlands on a tributary of the River Thames.
These wetlands are projected to recharge over 587m litres of groundwater per year and improve water quality by receiving and treating polluted runoff from farms and roadways, addressing growing water scarcity and boosting water quality in the Thames River basin, the company said.