AWS takes charge on water – reducing data center water use and returning water to our communities
By Nat Sahlstrom, Head of Energy, Water, and Sustainability, AWS
Water scarcity is one of the most important issues of our time.
Climate change is fueling increasingly extreme weather events that can strain access to clean, fresh water. By the end of this decade, global demand for water is expected to outstrip supply by about 40%. According to the Asian Development Bank, in Asia, 1.5 billion people in rural areas and 600 million more in urban areas still lack adequate water supply and sanitation.
With March 22, celebrated each year as World Water Day, and International Data Center Day — and since data centers depend on water for cooling — it marks a good time to share what Amazon Web Services is doing to be good neighbors and good water stewards. For AWS, building a sustainable business for our customers and our communities, means reducing the amount of water we use to cool our data centers. But many don’t know how we do that.
Our approach to water starts with our commitment to be water positive by 2030, which means we will return more water to our communities than we use in our direct operations. To meet this commitment, we are taking a four-pronged approach: Efficiency. Sustainable sources. Reuse. And replenishment.
When water is used at our data centers, we prioritize efficiency by using direct evaporative cooling wherever possible. When water evaporates it reduces the temperature of the cooling medium (either air or water) which flows through data centers, thereby helping to reduce the air temperature inside our data centers This process helps to keep the servers inside our data centers to run effectively, as they store and process all the data that keeps society humming. And in cooler regions, like Australia and Japan, using outside air for cooling, means water is only needed five to twenty percent of the year.
These types of innovations and techniques are also what has resulted in AWS data centers using an average of 0.25 liters of water per kilowatt-hour; typical cloud computing centers can easily use four times that amount.
Beyond prioritizing efficiency, AWS works with our communities to find new solutions in partnership with local leaders. As of today, AWS uses “recycled water” at 20 Amazon data centers, which is recovered from wastewater treatment, cleaned to industrial standards, and run through a separate system of pipes painted purple to keep it separate from regular fresh water. This includes two data centers in Singapore.
Finally, access to clean water cannot be taken for granted and we continue to look for ways to return water back to our communities. In Indonesia, we have collaborated with nonprofit Water.org to support rural water utilities with improving water access for more than 35,000 people in Java through infrastructure expansion, microfinance and technical training programs. In India, AWS worked with Water.org and Water Aid to provide access to clean water to more than 250,000 people across the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. These programs include microfinance loans to help neighboring communities finance water connections, enabling long-lasting, climate-resilient water and sanitation solutions.
Our efforts on water are further amplified when AWS cloud services are used for innovative sustainability solutions. This is why I am excited that AWS and Water.org are embarking on a new collaboration that will bring the power of the cloud to Water.org’s work globally. Our organizations will work together to build a learning management system (LMS) on AWS that Water.org expects will increase loans disbursed, with the potential to reduce the cost per person reached by an estimated 10% or more, resulting in Water.org’s ability to bring water and sanitation services to a projected 5 million or more people over the next ten years.
We will continue to lead in conservation and shift the paradigm on water use, and look forward to collaborating with like-minded local partners to do more together in Asia. Water scarcity is a major issue around the world and we are committed to do our part to help solve this rapidly growing challenge.
Nat Sahlstrom is the head of energy, water, and sustainability at AWS. His team is responsible for delivering on AWS’s net-zero carbon goals, and he manages global utility procurement and delivery for AWS data centers. Earlier in his career, Sahlstrom was the manager of energy policy and the principal energy strategist for Amazon.com. He also served in business development, energy project finance, and public policy consulting roles. He holds an MBA from the University of Washington where he also earned his undergraduate degree in economics.
About Amazon Web Services
For over 15 years, Amazon Web Services has been the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud offering. AWS has been continually expanding its services to support virtually any cloud workload, and it now has more than 200 fully featured services for compute, storage, databases, networking, analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, security, hybrid, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), media, and application development, deployment, and management from 96 Availability Zones within 30 geographic regions, with announced plans for 15 more Availability Zones and five more AWS Regions in Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, and Thailand. Millions of customers—including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies—trust AWS to power their infrastructure, become more agile, and lower costs. To learn more about AWS, visit aws.amazon.com.
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