Data centers, used by governments and large corporations to house their computer systems, have one big environmental problem: They get hot.
To keep them from overheating, large data centers can pump hundreds of millions of gallons of water a year through the facilities, according to company reports. That high demand for water has some investors concerned, especially in places where natural water resources are becoming ever more precious, like tech-heavy California.
“We definitely want our portfolio companies to be cognizant of their water use and take the appropriate steps to minimize their water use and recycle water,” said Brian Rice, portfolio manager at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which manages about $189 billion in assets as of June 30. He cited water usage as a concern at data centers as well as at other portfolio companies, such as those in agriculture.
California — home to companies running some of the world’s biggest data centers — houses more than 800 of the facilities, the most of any state, according to Dan Harrington, research director of 451 Research, a technology consulting firm.
Water usage there is especially a concern as the state’s drought pushes into its fifth year. California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order in May to extend statewide emergency water restrictions, establishing long-term measures to conserve water.