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Water crisis looms over China's data centers and AI sector

  • Water crisis looms over China's data centers and AI sector
  • A new report sheds light on the effects of thirsty and power hungry data centres on China’s water resources.
  • The report found that 46% of China’s national data centre racks are located in areas of the country that are as dry as the Middle East.

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A recent report from China Water Risk underscores the potential impact of China's expanding data centers and rapid AI growth on the nation's water resources. The report reveals that these data hubs consume around 1.3 billion cubic meters of water annually, a figure slated to surge beyond 3 billion cubic meters by 2030.

Data centers rely on water for cooling systems and indirectly through electricity generation. As China braces for a surge in data center numbers, water consumption is set to skyrocket. Additionally, the report titled: China ICT running dry? sheds light on the substantial water demands of generative AI technologies like AI chatbots, which require significant water for cooling purposes.

To address these water risks stemming from the ICT sector, the report stresses the urgency for enhanced energy and water efficiency measures. It urges tech companies to evaluate climate and water risks, crafting unified strategies to mitigate them. Moreover, the report calls on Chinese tech giants to strive for "water neutral" or "water positive" statuses, replenishing more water than they consume.

Efforts to curb water usage encompass watershed restoration, enhanced water efficiency, and rainwater harvesting. Anticipated government actions include stricter regulations and standards for the ICT sector to bolster water resource management.

According to the report, the rapid expansion of data centers and AI technologies in China poses a significant challenge to its water resources. It's imperative for ICT companies to proactively diminish their water footprint and promote sustainable water management practices.

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