News Feature | August 9, 2023

Google Is Consuming More Water Than Ever, And The Growth Of AI Will Make It Worse

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


One of the world’s largest companies is also one of its most increasingly thirsty, and even as water becomes scarcer around the world, its consumption only seems poised to grow.

“Google just published its 2023 environmental report, and one thing is for certain: The company’s water use is soaring,” Business Insider reported. “The internet giant said it consumed 5.6 billion gallons of water in 2022… And as Google and every other tech company in the AI arms race speed to build new data centers, the amount of water they consume will very likely keep rising.”

Google’s 2022 consumption figure marked a 20% increase from the year prior, and more than 90% of that water was used at its massive data centers. No matter who is operating them, these centers are often major water consumers, and other big tech firms have addressed this consumption by pledging to restore supplies as they use them. Google has made similar commitments, though it has yet to meet them.

“Google said it has targeted 2030 as a deadline to replenish 120% of the freshwater it consumes across its offices and data centers,” according to Business Insider. “Right now it’s replenishing just 6%.”

While data center operators like Google appear confident that they can offset the massive amounts of water that they consume, industry trends suggest that will be an even bigger challenge in the near future. As the race to develop artificial intelligence (AI) tools grows more intense, reliance on these thirsty data centers is poised to as well.

“AI is famously energy-intensive and requires a ton of water in order to cool the data centers and server farms that act as the program’s brain,” per Gizmodo. “While [Google] claims … that it takes local water stress into account, and aims to use non-potable water whenever possible, the company’s focus on AI could very well make the situation only worse in the coming years.”

With the latest tech innovations making companies like Google thirstier than ever, consumers and water systems are left to hope they will meet their replenishment commitments soon. And with any luck, the next tech breakthrough will be one that preserves water, instead of using it up.

To read more about how drinking water systems manage dwindling supplies, visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.