Microsoft Azure: Figures around Microsoft's Holland data center water consumption cause concern

Aug 18, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Microsoft's data center in the province of North Holland has been exposed for its extreme water usage. It appears that the facility consumes significantly more water than original estimates, right as the country is faced with record temperatures. According to a report by local media company Noordhollands Dagblad, the data center guzzled 84 million liters (84,000 cubic meters) of cooling water last year. This is despite the giant Microsoft and the municipality informing that water usage would be capped to 12 to 20 million liters. 

This is also four times the amount it consumed last year, and in context, the drinking water consumption of the Dutch in 2019 was at an average of 130 liters per person, meaning Microsoft's data center consumed as much drinking water as approximately 1750 people.

The figure of 84,000 cubic meters accounts for the year's worth of usage in 2021, a period when the country was subjected to heat extremes that caused severe water shortages. Projections are that water consumption by the data center will be even higher this year, just as the Netherlands faces further drought. According to calculations, right now there is an average precipitation deficit of 220 millimeters across the country - this figure is typically only 100.

According to Microsoft, it will only cool its facilities with water if the outside temperature is above 25 degrees Celsius, and in 2021, there were only six days that exceeded this temperature, according to data from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. However, according to the Middenmeer weather chart, temperatures have exceeded 26°C on more than six days over the last two weeks alone. 

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