CyrusOne News and Blog

NPR covers water issues CyrusOne offers solutions

September 22, 2022

In the next decade, “water is going to be king” when data centers companies look to build new facilities, CyrusOne Vice President of EHS, ESG and External Affairs Kyle Myers told NPR in its recent story about water issues and data centers.

NPR’s piece covers the water usage and scarcity issues data centers must contend with as demand for their services rises exponentially and climate change simultaneously puts more pressure on the precious resource. Data centers often use water as part of infrastructure to cool down the data center environment, where constantly running servers generate heat.

While we applaud some large companies setting ambitious water goals, many other data center companies don’t want to talk about their water issues, as the story notes.

“The reason there’s not a lot of transparency, simply put, [is] I think most companies don’t have a good story here,” Myers told NPR.

CyrusOne has long been the exception, and we have been pioneering transparency in water metrics. We are committed to minimizing impacts to the local environment and communities in which we operate and even going net positive in some regions. For example, we currently use water-free cooling for nearly all our modern builds, eliminating dependence on this scarce resource.

Our 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 our facilities in high water-stress regions net positive water facilities.

We accomplish this in 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 the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF)
by acquiring Water Restoration Certificates® (WRCs), which fund restoration of water flows in these regions.

If we can restore at least 20% more water than we use, we consider this to be a net positive water facility and add it to our growing Net Positive Water Portfolio.

We are proud to have reported in recent years the world’s first, second, and third net water positive data centers in Phoenix (Chandler) and Dallas (Carrollton and Allen).

The Chandler data center uses cutting-edge, proprietary technology that dramatically reduces water usage onsite and will reduce company-wide water usage by millions of gallons per year. Since deployment, CyrusOne’s Chandler facility has significantly reduced its water usage, using small amounts for cooling, humidification, facility maintenance and domestic water. In partnership with BEF’s Change the Course program, the Chandler campus also provides water restoration to nearby watersheds.

Water efficiency projects completed at the Carrollton location finalized a water-free cooling design that has reduced onsite water consumption by 65%. By leveraging our zero water-consumption cooling technology, CyrusOne will save millions of gallons of water annually in a drought-prone region. Additionally, a collaboration with BEF and Trout Unlimited restored to regional watersheds 20% more water than CyrusOne consumed at the site in 2020. By leasing water, exchanging water at critical times, and shifting the timing of water delivery, project partners have been able to increase habitat for fish and provide important economic and community benefits for residents in the region.

At our Allen facility, BEF and the Nature Conservancy identified an opportunity to prevent the removal of 177 acre-feet of water from the San Saba River over the next three years. 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 instead remains in the river to benefit the San Saba’s mussels, fish and other wildlife.

Environment+Energy Leader awarded CyrusOne its 2021 Top Project of the Year Award for its water conservation efforts at Chandler and its 2022 Top Project of the Year Award for its water conservation efforts in Carrollton.

Yet, we – and our industry – still have more work to do.

We believe the data center industry must take a close look at its water consumption – not only to protect the sustainability of the regions where we operate, but for the sustainability of our business. While we are proud of our progress and excited that large companies are setting goals to reach net positive water with us, just a few data centers alone can’t alleviate regional water shortages. We look forward to a future where our whole industry commits to achieving net positive water together.

We also believe in full transparency about our water conservation and other sustainability efforts. We recently published our third annual sustainability report, which details all our ESG efforts, achievements and remaining work. In particular, we expanded our transparency in water metrics, reporting our Water Usage Effectiveness both for onsite usage (WUE site), as well as counting the effect of the energy supply chain (WUE source). The 110-page publication covers corporate governance, environmental impact and social responsibility. You’ll find exhaustive reporting, charts, graphics, statistics, numbers, methodology and highlight stories that confirm our successes and reveal areas where we plan to improve. Read the full report here.