Google Data Centre Cooled By Bathtub Water

At Google’s data centre in Douglas County, Georgia, the company apparently is looking to be both fiscally and environmentally responsible. The search giant is using water from the toilets and bathtubs of neighboring communities to help cool the servers that are running inside the facility.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other operators of massive data centres are always looking for ways to make their facilities more energy-efficient, primarily to drive down the skyrocketing costs of running these operations, as well as to lessen the impact these data centres have on the surrounding communities and their environments.

‘Grey water’

In a 15 March post in a Google blog, Jim Brown, Google’s data centre facilities manager in Georgia, outlined a partnership the company has with the local water and sewer agency that diverts recycled water – or what he called “reuse” or “grey” water – to cool the systems. The data centre was built in 2007, and like other Google facilities, was using “free cooling” methods to reduce the heat inside generated by the servers. Such methods – from water to outside air-cooling – are less expensive that traditional chillers used in many data centres.

Google’s Douglas County facility initially used the same potable water that was used in the homes and businesses in surrounding communities, according to Brown. And using a lot of it – a typical Google data centre can consume hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a day, he said.

With the evaporative cooling method employed in the data centre, cold water is brought into the facility, where it’s used to cool the hot air from the servers. Some of it evaporates into the air via cooling towers, while the rest remains as a liquid.

“But we soon realised that the water we used didn’t need to be clean enough to drink,” Brown wrote.

Google officials worked with the Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority – or WSA – to come up with an alternative. The result was using recycled water rather than clean drinking water in the data centre, he said.

The WSA runs a water treatment facility in Douglasville, where it cleans and treats wastewater from local communities, and then releases it into the Chattahoochee River.

Now, about 30 percent of the water is diverted from the WSA system and instead is sent through a plant that Google built and paid for about five miles away from its data centre. Google now uses only recycled water to cool its data centre. After being used at the facility, any of the water that doesn’t evaporate into the air is sent to an effluent treatment plant on the Google grounds, where it’s treated again to disinfect it and remove mineral solids from it.

Then the treated water is sent into the Chattahoochee River. The system not only enables Google to use the recycled water for cooling the data centre, but also protects the company in case of a drought, when limitations often are put on the amount of clean water consumers and businesses can use.

The system in Georgia, which was turned on in 2008, is similar to one Google employs at a data centre in Belgium, which relies on a combination of recycled water and outside air for cooling.

Do you know Google’s secrets? To find out, take our quiz.

Jeffrey Burt

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

View Comments

  • This is really a great idea. With the ongoing battle over Northern Georgia's waster resources and the droughts, Google has managed to secure a water source that won't go away when water supply is tight because people will always have to drink (and pee/shower/etc). The solution is elegantly simple and helps keep Google's services more strategically reliable for the millions of people using them. Bravo!

  • Sorry for the typo. That should say "water" rather than "waster." Sorry about that.

    As a Georgia resident, it was also of interest that there's a data center in Georgia! I actually didn't know that until I read this.

    • As a Georgia resident, it was also of interest that there’s a data center in Georgia! I actually didn’t know that until I read this.

      Dude the area downtown in Atlanta around the 40 to 60 block of Marietta St is nothing but data centers. All the major fiber backbones dump off under Marietta St. Yep all those tall old office buildings are data centers now. There are also a lot of DCs out 400 highway.

  • If there is a river nearby, they should just use the river for cooling. Easy, plentiful, and safe.

    The only problem, I'm sure, are the local greendroids who will claim that this will raise the temperature of the river by 0.1 degrees and it'll harm some obscure microspecies no one has ever heard of.

    I propose that we burn greendroids as fuel.

  • Good idea, but I bet that their water towers smell like nasty gym socks on hot days. Oh well...

  • Greywater is wastewater generated from domestic activities such as laundry, dishwashing, and bathing, which can be recycled on-site for uses such as landscape irrigation and constructed wetlands. Greywater differs from water from the toilets which is designated sewage or blackwater to indicate it contains human waste.Source:

    Reclaimed water or recycled water, is former wastewater (sewage) that is treated to remove solids and certain impurities, and used in sustainable landscaping irrigation or to recharge groundwater aquifers. The purpose of these processes is sustainability and water conservation, rather than discharging the treated water to surface waters such as rivers and oceans. Source:

  • I was amazed to know that even organisations like goole go green that is eco friendly and that is awesome .

  • Instead of boiling water to the atmosphere, they could boil ethanol / sour mash into fuel. That would seem to have a much greater environmental and monetary pay-off than simply turning sewage into slightly less sewage + excess humidity.

    If treated for the proper components, perhaps the sewage could be used for the mash water...then you're killing about three birds with one stone.

  • Would be even better to see large server farms use fresh water, and then pipe the heated water or vapor to hotels, hospitals, universities, etc where hot water is in constant, high demand. That way you are actually saving electricity too.

    • They could re-use the grey water TWICE. After they cool the servers, they could run it out to the stills in woods to make moonshine with it. It's a win-win situation.

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