Data centers are the supercomputers that power our daily lives. They’re the engines behind tools like Search, Gmail, and Maps — and even help us sustainably navigate from point A to B. They underpin industries — like healthcare, the public sector, manufacturing, financial services and retail — as they grow and adapt to the digital world.
At Google, many of our data centers use water for cooling. Last year we pledged to enhance our stewardship of water resources across Google office campuses and data centers and to replenish our water use while improving watershed health and ecosystems in water-stressed communities. These commitments complement our ambitious goal to operate on carbon-free energy, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, by 2030.
To increase transparency into the progress we’re making with our climate and water commitments, we’re sharing our approach to climate-conscious cooling, which is our multi-dimensional methodology for choosing cooling systems for our data center campuses. And we’re publishing annual water metrics for our U.S. data center locations, starting with our 2021 usage, and committing to sharing annual water metrics for additional global locations in our 2023 Environmental Report.
Our climate-conscious approach to data center cooling
Similar to your personal computer, data centers generate heat and must be cooled through air cooling, water cooling, refrigerants or some combination of these solutions. The best approach depends on local factors — there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Our climate-conscious cooling strategy aims to support these hyperlocal decisions. Climate-conscious cooling is our multi-dimensional, data-driven approach to understanding local hydrology, geography, energy and emissions factors. In consultation with local experts, we find the best cooling solution for each site. At each data center campus, our cooling decisions look at the local environment — balancing the availability of carbon-free energy and responsibly-sourced water — to minimize the net climate impact both today and in the future.
In many places, water is the most efficient means of cooling. When used responsibly, water cooling can play an important role in reducing emissions and mitigating climate change. Water-cooled data centers use about 10% less energy and thus emit roughly 10% less carbon emissions than many air-cooled data centers. In 2021, water cooling helped us reduce the energy-related carbon footprint of our data center portfolio by roughly 300,000 tons of CO2.
Last year, our global data center fleet consumed approximately 4.3 billion gallons of water. This is comparable to the water needed to irrigate and maintain 29 golf courses in the southwest U.S. each year.