Amazon Web Services pledges to reach water positivity by 2030
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has committed to returning more water to communities than it uses by 2030.
The cloud provider has also announced its 2021 global water use efficiency (WUE) metric of 0.25 litres of water per kilowatt-hour.
As part of the new commitment, AWS will report annually on its WUE metric, as well as its new water reuse and recycling efforts. It will also report on new activities to reduce water consumption in its facilities and advancements in new and existing replenishment projects.
AWS chief executive Adam Selipsky said: “Water scarcity is a major issue around the world and with today’s water-positive announcement we are committing to do our part to help solve this rapidly growing challenge.
“In just a few years, half of the world’s population is projected to live in water-stressed areas, so to ensure all people have access to water, we all need to innovate new ways to help conserve and reuse this precious resource.
“While we are proud of the progress we have made, we know there is more we can do. We are committed to leading on water stewardship in our cloud operations and returning more water than we use in the communities where we operate. We know this is the right thing to do for the environment and our customers.”
The announcement today adds to Amazon’s commitment of $10m to Water.org to support the launch of the Water & Climate Fund, which will deliver climate-resilient water and sanitation solutions to 100 million people across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
This donation will directly empower one million people with water access by 2025, providing three billion litres of water each year to people in water-scarce areas.
Water.org chief executive and co-founder Gary White said, “Our collaboration with Amazon and AWS already brings over 805 million litres of safe water to communities around the world every year, and we are excited to continue to work with Amazon to bring even more safe water to families in need.”
AWS has four key strategies to help it achieve its objective: improving water efficiency, using sustainable water sources, returning water for community reuse, and supporting water replenishment projects.
AWS said it is “constantly” innovating across its infrastructure to reduce water consumption. It achieves its industry-leading water efficiency by using advanced cloud services, such as Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, to analyse real-time water use and identify and fix leaks.
The firm further improves operational efficiency by eliminating cooling water use in many of its facilities for most of the year, instead relying on outside air.
For example, in Ireland and Sweden, AWS uses no water to cool its data centres for 95% of the year.
It also invests in on-site water-treatment systems that allow it to reuse water multiple times, minimising water consumed for cooling.
AWS uses sustainable water sources, such as recycled water and rainwater harvesting, wherever possible.
Using recycled water – which is only suitable for a limited set of applications such as irrigation and industrial use – preserves valuable drinking water for communities.
In Northern Virginia, the provider worked with Loudoun Water to become the first data centre operator in the state approved to use recycled water in direct evaporative cooling systems.
AWS already uses recycled water for cooling in 20 data centres around the world and has plans to expand recycled water use in more facilities as it works toward becoming water positive.
Community water reuse
After maximising the use of water in its data centres, the spent liquid is still safe for many other uses, and AWS is exploring more ways to return it to communities.
In Oregon, for example, AWS provides up to 96% of the cooling water from its data centres to local farmers at no charge for use in irrigating crops like corn, soybeans and wheat.
To meet its water-positive commitment, AWS is investing in water replenishment projects in the communities where it operates. Replenishment projects expand water access, availability, and quality by restoring watersheds and bringing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene services to water-stressed communities.
To date, AWS has completed replenishment projects in Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa, providing 1.6 billion litres of freshwater each year to people in those communities.
For example, in regions like Maharashtra and Hyderabad, India, and West Java, Indonesia, AWS is partnering with global clean water non-profit Water.org to provide 250,000 people with access to safe water and sanitation.
Building on its existing portfolio of water replenishment programs, AWS this week announced several new projects, which, once completed, will provide more than 823 million litres of water to communities each year.
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