Amazon AWS: AWS announces water positive goals for 2030 & pledges to report on WUE each year

Nov 30, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Amazon has announced its goal of becoming water positive by 2030, which, according to AWS, will see it returning more water to the communities that it uses in its operations. It also promised to report on its WUE each year. Through this announcement, it joins the likes of other tech giants, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, who have made similar pledges, the latter of which has been highlighted as a market leader in this area. Its announcement outlined that a myriad of factors—including climate change, aging infrastructure, and pollution- have intermingled to create increasing water scarcity. It pointed to the United Nations' estimates that by 2025, half of the world will be living in water-stressed regions. Will Hewes, water sustainability lead at Amazon Web Services (AWS), said that while water is an essential resource, primarily used for data center cooling, AWS can "do its part in solving the water crisis."

According to AWS, the four pillars of AWS's water-positive commitment are efficiency, recycling, reuse, and replenishment. Part of this involves creating efficient cooling systems, including evaporative technologies and its "free-air cooling" system. AWS uses this technology in Ireland and Sweden to cool its data centers for 95% of the year. Meanwhile, in Santa Clara, California, the giant uses a direct evaporative cooling system, which has reduced its annual water use by 85%. Its data centers in this location also utilize recycled or reclaimed wastewater for cooling, due to its location being an area where there is water scarcity. 

With regard to putting more water into the communities it operates in that it takes from, the giant also detailed how it supplies water to local farms, such as wheat farmer and vice chair of the Board of Directors for the West Extension Irrigation District in Oregon, Vern Fredrickson. It also has funded a number of replenishment projects in India in association with WaterAid and AWS has also partnered with The Nature Conservancy to restore over 350 hectares of land in the watersheds serving São Paulo, Brazil, and Cape Town, South Africa and is working with The Rivers Trust and local member trust Action for the River Kennet to create two wetlands on a tributary of the River Thames.

At its AWS re:Invent event in Las Vegas, where the company made the announcement, Adam Selipsky, CEO of AWS, 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."

He added: "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."

There's no denying that Amazon's AWS has made a lot of green pledges in recent years; however, there are also doubts about whether the giant is actually acting on its promises. Many have pointed out that its green pledges are ambiguous, and for the most part, scope three emissions are largely ignored. It has subsequently faced accusations of greenwashing, and it's been pointed out that it partakes in some creative environmental accounting, something which is rampant in the tech industry.