The Google data centre project in Bissen was at a standstill. And it is still at a standstill, judging by the tech giant’s terse response to a query by Paperjam, Delano’s sister publication. But the situation may have changed a bit with last week’s publication of the first figures concerning the water consumption of Google’s data centres in 2021, in accordance with the commitments made at the end of 2022.
These figures say that the American company’s data centres consumed 16.4bn litres of water... in the US. However, the figure includes a line “other locations on the planet,” opposite which is the figure of 3.675bn litres, with no further details on the locations that are included in this premise of transparency on water.
Far from Meco’s 5 to 10%
For another, more interesting figure, the press release published on the same occasion said that “Google's data centres use, on average, 450,000 gallons of water per day.” That is 1.7m litres, or 1,700 m³ per day.
Comparing this figure with Luxembourg’s consumption of 120,000 m³ of water per day, Google’s consumption would represent 1.41%. This is a long way from the 5 to 10% still quoted by environmental group Mouvement écologique (Meco).
In its 2021 analysis, Meco stated that “water consumption--according to speculation that has not been denied to date--could increase by at least 5-10% of total annual consumption of drinking water in Luxembourg. A significant amount, the availability of which in hot periods and in view of the decreasing groundwater reserves has not been proven. In addition, the discharge of wastewater into surface water must be taken into account, under ecologically verifiable conditions, which has not been documented.”
Google is expected to give its full water consumption data in its 2023 environmental report. The group already states that “water-cooled data centres use about 10% less energy and therefore emit about 10% less carbon emissions than many air-cooled data centres,” and that it also uses non-recycled water for both use and treatment.
The Belgian municipality of Farciennes has just announced that it has issued a new building permit for Google’s sixth data centre in Belgium, with a planned start date of 2025. The centre in Bissen should have been commissioned this year.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.