Water Usage Breakdown in Data Centres Essential Facility Areas

Water Usage Breakdown in Data Centres: Essential Facility Areas

Data centres are extremely thirsty and consume millions of gallons of water each day. Data centres use a lot of water to cool their facilities due to the substantial amount of heat generated by the servers and IT equipment housed there. 

In recent years, the demand for AI and HPC (High Performance Computing) has heightened the heat challenge for data centres. This has resulted in a drastic increase in water consumption in these facilities. In 2021, Google’s data centres consumed approximately 4.3 billion gallons of water, whilst in 2022 Microsoft’s consumption was nearly 1.7 billion gallons of water. Combined this would fill 9,084 Olympic sized swimming pools!

Data centres and water are intrinsically linked with water acting as a vital resource which is essential for the efficient operation and longevity of data centre infrastructure. There are several areas in data centres where water is used for cooling and operations. In this blog, we will discuss key areas of the data centre where water is used.

On site water usage in Data Centres

Cooling Systems
There are numerous servers and other IT equipment in data centres that generate significant amounts of heat during operation which causes . The use of water is essential in cooling systems such as cooling towers, chilled water systems, and direct to chip cooling (DTC) systems to absorb and dissipate the heat generated by the equipment as efficiently as possible.

Cooling Towers:
Data Centres commonly use cooling towers to dissipate heat from the data halls. Air is driven counter flow to the warmwater cascading over a fill pack forcing evaporation. Primarily the principle of latent heat rejection occurs where the water’s transition into a vapour draws heat out of the remaining water significantly cooling it down. The cooled water is then recirculated to the heat exchanger to absorb more heat from the data halls.

Chilled Water Systems:
Data centres use chilled process water as a heat transfer medium to absorb heat from their server environments. Fan walls, CRAC units (computer room air conditioning),  precision cooling server racks and CDU’s (cooling distribution unit’s) are cooled with chilled water circulated through pipes and heat exchangers.        

Direct To Chip Cooling (DTC) Systems:
Using DTC systems, heat is directly absorbed by the water that circulates through a cold plate mounted on the components of the server, such as the CPU and GPU. A primary benefit of this method of cooling is that it eliminates the need for air-based heat transfer mechanisms, resulting in more efficient cooling.

Humidification Systems
In data centres, humidity levels must be precisely controlled to maintain optimal operating conditions for IT equipment. Maintaining the right humidity is essential for preventing static electricity build-up and minimising the risk of equipment failure. Humidification systems use water to add moisture to the air when necessary.

Fire Suppression Systems
Data centres install water-based fire suppression systems, such as sprinklers and water mist systems, to quickly extinguish fires and minimise equipment damage. An area affected by a fire is cooled down with water to suppress the flames.

Greywater or Rainwater Collection Systems
In some data centres, water usage practices are innovatively implemented, including greywater treatment and rainwater harvesting systems. Water from sinks, showers, and other non-toilet sources, as well as rainwater harvested from roofs and other surfaces, is repurposed for non-potable applications within the facility, including cooling towers.

Facility Maintenance
In data centres, water is also used for cleaning cooling tower basins, heat exchangers, floors, server racks and other cooling infrastructure components. Cleaning regularly prevents dust, dirt, and contaminants from building up, which can affect equipment performance and efficiency. In general, water is needed for facility operations, such as potable outlets, restrooms, bib taps and landscaping. These water needs are not directly related to data centre infrastructure, but they contribute to overall facility water use.

Optimising Water Management: Key to Sustainability in Data Centres

According to the United Nations, water and climate change are strongly linked. Climate change causes higher water temperatures that worsen water pollution and quality, while melting glaciers diminish water supplies causing higher levels of water scarcity.

To reduce carbon footprints and water scarcity in data centres, it is essential to ensure the water treatment systems and technologies are being used correctly. The use of efficient water management practices is crucial to ensuring that IT infrastructure functions reliably while balancing the need for effective cooling and responsible water usage.

Purite - Contact for help with water purification for data centres

Purite – Expert Solutions for Sustainable Water Management in Data Centres

With over four decades of experience in water purification for the most demanding industrial and scientific applications, we can help you navigate the challenges involved in sustainable, reliable and cost-effective water management for data centres.

Our technical solutions include:

  • Feed-water pre-treatment
  • Filtration for all types of source water
  • Process water softening and conditioning
  • Biological mitigation of bulk stored water
  • Recycling of cooling process bleed water

Our commitment to innovation and excellence ensures that we can address the evolving needs of modern data centres, offering site-specific solutions for facilities of any scale. From initial design concepts to seamless implementation and ongoing maintenance, our dedicated teams are here to support you every step of the way. Contact us and find out how we can help you.

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