Google Uses Recycled Water to Cool Georgia Data Center

The search giant is using water from local residents’ toilets and bathtubs to cool the systems in their Douglas County facility.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other operators of massive data centers are always looking for ways to make their facilities more energy-efficient, primarily to drive down the skyrocketing costs of running these operations.

Another aim is to lessen the impact these data centers have on the surrounding communities and their environments.

At Google's data center in Douglas County, Ga., the company apparently is looking to be both fiscally and environmentally responsible. The search giant is using water from the toilets and bathtubs of neighboring communities to help cool the servers that are running inside the facility.

In a March 15 post in a Google blog, Jim Brown, Google€™s data center facilities manager in Georgia, outlined a partnership the company has with the local water and sewer agency that diverts recycled water€”or what he called €œreuse€ or €œgrey€ water€”to cool the systems. The data center was built in 2007, and like other Google facilities, was using €œfree cooling€ methods to reduce the heat inside generated by the servers. Such methods€”from water to outside air-cooling€”are less expensive that traditional chillers used in many data centers.

Google€™s Douglas County facility initially used the same potable water that was used in the homes and businesses in surrounding communities, according to Brown. And using a lot of it€”a typical Google data center can consume hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a day, he said. With the evaporative cooling method employed in the data center, cold water is brought into the facility, where it€™s used to cool the hot air from the servers. Some of it evaporates into the air via cooling towers, while the rest remains as a liquid.

€œBut we soon realized that the water we used didn€™t need to be clean enough to drink,€ Brown wrote.

Google officials worked with the Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority€”or WSA€”to come up with an alternative. The result was using recycled water rather than clean drinking water in the data center, he said. The WSA runs a water treatment facility in Douglasville, where it cleans and treats wastewater from local communities, and then releases it into the Chattahoochee River.

Now, about 30 percent of the water is diverted from the WSA system and instead is sent through a plant that Google built and paid for about five miles away from its data center. Google now uses only recycled water to cool its data center. After being used at the facility, any of the water that doesn€™t evaporate into the air is sent to an effluent treatment plant on the Google grounds, where it€™s treated again to disinfect it and remove mineral solids from it.

Then the treated water is sent into the Chattahoochee River. The system not only enables Google to use the recycled water for cooling the data center, but also protects the company in case of a drought, when limitations often are put on the amount of clean water consumers and businesses can use.

The system in Georgia, which was turned on in 2008, is similar to one Google employs at a data center in Belgium, which relies on a combination of recycled water and outside air for cooling.