European Data Center Operators Set Water Efficiency Metric

A group of data center operators has told the European Commission how much water it will use as part of a target to improve efficiency and conservation.

The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact (CNDCP), an initiative that includes 74 data center operators and 23 associations in Europe, says it will limit the amount of water it uses to 400 milliliters per kilowatt-hour of computer power. CNDCP says the metric must be achieved by the entire group by 2040.

The number considers a range of technologies, climates, and facilities to ensure that the metric is technology and location neutral, CNDCP says. As a result, members of the organization will be among the most efficient data center operators in terms of water use, CNDCP says.

The proposal illustrates that every data center facility should be treated like it was in a high-stress water area and will consider regional water issues and the percentage of non-potable water used. It also differentiates between potable and non-potable water and will encourage the use of grey water and rainwater for cooling.

By coming up with the 2040 deadline, CNDCP also took into consideration the lifecycle of current cooling systems and the embedded carbon that could result from replacing those systems.

Data centers are an ever-growing focus of sustainability efforts because of their intensive use of energy and water. On average, a data center uses 1.8 liters of water per KWh of computer power, and an NBC report says data centers use between 3 million to 5 million gallons of water per day.

Improving efficiency has data center operators coming up with comprehensive strategies and has helped grow areas like the liquid cooling market. Companies such as Equinix and Vantage Data Centers have also secured significant green financing this year specifically for data center sustainability measures.

CNDCP also announced plans to create metrics for the ISO/IEC 30134 standard for data centers, which includes several environmental measures. The group says it will begin working on targets for energy efficiency and recycling and will report progress to the European Commission at its next meeting in November 2022.

The organization, which it says includes more than 90% of Europe’s data center capacity, has previously targeted 75% renewable or carbon-free energy use by the end of 2025, and 100% clean energy by 2030.