Allen data center becomes third net positive water facility
When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest of things can influence the biggest changes. That was the case for CyrusOne, which got the inspiration to work toward its third net positive water data center in part from the Texas fatmucket, Texas pimpleback and false spike.
These amusingly named bivalves live about 300 miles southwest from our Allen data center in the San Saba River, deep in the Texas Hill Country. The river is a beloved haven for native fish species that have been hybridized through interbreeding with introduced species elsewhere in the area. But climate change, agriculture and increased development have led to decreased water flows in the San Saba in recent decades, and water scarcity now threatens these native aquatic mussels. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has even recently proposed listing them as endangered.
The Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) and the Nature Conservancy (TNC) stepped up to remedy the situation. They identified an opportunity to prevent the removal of 177 acre-feet of water from the San Saba over the next three years. Knowing CyrusOne sought BEF Water Restoration Certificates (WRCs) to apply to our Allen facility, BEF asked us to sign on as the keystone sponsor for the project and we were delighted to assist.
Water transaction efforts in the San Saba have primarily focused on the reduction of agricultural water use during the irrigation season under low and critical low-flow conditions, mitigating water scarcity and creating essential aquatic habitat when it’s most needed.
Now, water that would have been used to irrigate hay fields and pecan orchards will instead remain in the river to benefit the San Saba’s mussels, fish and other wildlife. And with this project, Allen has become our third net positive water data center after our Chandler, Arizona, campus and our flagship Carrollton, Texas, data center.
The news comes as we observe World Water Day on March 22. The 29th annual United Nations event celebrates water and raises awareness of an estimated 2 billion people who do not have access to safe water. The theme for 2022 is groundwater, as the UN seeks to shine a light on the importance of this vital resource – almost all of earth’s freshwater is groundwater. Currently, groundwater is over-used in many areas, where more water is abstracted from aquifers than is recharged by rain and snow, the UN noted. Groundwater is also polluted in many areas and remediation is often a long and difficult process.
CyrusOne’s target for water conservation is not to simply do “less bad” but to do “more good” and leave regions better than if we were never there. With this in mind, we aim to make all of our facilities that are in high water-stress regions into net positive water facilities.
We accomplish this three ways. First, we identify which regions are considered high or extremely high water stress using our Water Risk Assessment. Then, we attempt to reduce water usage on the site through operational efficiency measures and upgrades. Finally, we partner with environmental nonprofits through BEF by acquiring WRCs, which fund restoration of water flows in these regions in excess of the water we use.
If we can restore at least 20% more water than we use, we consider this to be a net positive water facility.
We are now developing a multi-year plan to convert all of our facilities that currently in high-stress regions to net positive water.
After we accomplish our net positive water goals, we’ll continue to purchase WRCs annually to maintain our net positive water status and monitor our Water Risk Assessment for new regions that become high water stress. When they do, we will plan to convert facilities in those regions to net positive water facilities.
In their own way, Texas fatmucket, Texas pimpleback and false spike can all take some of the credit.