News Feature | July 1, 2016

Apple Enters The Wastewater Business

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

The newest player in the wastewater industry is Apple.

The company confirmed “that it has agreed to pay for a treatment facility to re-use water for evaporative cooling in its Prineville, OR, data centers. By recycling water for Apple instead of taking it straight from the tap, the city says its new facility will save nearly 5 million gallons a year,” The Oregonian reported this month.

“The water will come from Prineville’s regular sewage treatment system and would otherwise have been less rigorously treated and then used at the municipal golf course or flow into pasturelands or the Crooked River,” The Associated Press reported.

Prineville houses data centers for both Apple and Facebook. Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe described the small city’s relationship with Apple.

"They're doing this simply because we came up with a project that we can benefit from and they can benefit from,” she said, per The Oregonian.

“Prineville said Apple's ongoing construction inflated last year's water consumption, but neither the city nor the company would provide forecasts of how much water the data centers themselves use,” the report said.

Apple said in a statement: "We are proud to partner with Crook County and the City of Prineville on this effort, and are committed to doing our part to preserve natural resources.”

Using 27 million gallons of water last year, Apple is the biggest water consumer in the city, the report said. Water from the new treatment facility will not enter the city’s system. Instead, it will go back to Apple for reuse. The new facility could help the city attract additional industrial users to the area, the report said.

“In addition to re-using water, the city said the treatment center will reduce the mineral content inside Apple's data center — enabling the company to use it longer for cooling before sending it to the new facility for treatment,” the report said.

Facebook also appears to be exploring ways it can get creative with water in Prineville.

“Facebook, which also has a complex of Prineville data centers, uses about 10.5 million gallons of water a year to cool its facilities, most of that drawn from wells on its property. The company has talked informally about tapping the greywater, too, but has yet to sign on,” the news report said.

Apple’s presence in the city brings pros and cons. “The construction of two new data centers in Prineville has prompted a temporary housing shortage in the central Oregon town,” The Associated Press reported, citing The Bulletin.

To read more about industrial reuse visit Water Online’s Water Reuse Solutions Center.