A look at the infrastructure supporting the water and cooling systems in a Google data center near Atlanta, which includes facilities to clean and purify "grey water" for use in its cooling towers. (Image: Google)

A look at the infrastructure supporting the water and cooling systems in a Google data center near Atlanta, which includes facilities to clean and purify "grey water" for use in its cooling towers. (Image: Google)

Google Recycling Water for Atlanta Data Center

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A look at the infrastructure supporting the water and cooling systems in a Google data center near Atlanta, which includes facilities to clean and purify "grey water" for use in its cooling towers. (Image: Google)

A Google data center near Atlanta is recycling waste water to cool the thousands of servers housed in the facility, and then purifying the excess water so it can be released into the Chattahoochee River. The project to use “grey water” in Atlanta is part of Google’s broader program to reduce the impact of its data centers on the environment and local community.

The facility, which was built in 2008 (and described in a 2010 DCK article) is Google’s first water treatment plant in the United States. Google financed the building of a “sidestream” treatment plant for the Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority (WSA), which intercepts 30 percent of the water from the authority’s treatment plant.

“The sidestream system provides additional cleaning of the water through sterilization, filtration and chlorination, and that water is sent to us at the data center for use in our cooling towers,” said Jim Brown, the data center facilities manager at Google’s Douglas County data center. “Then, the effluent treatment plant that is located on the data center campus takes water that is not evaporated into the cooling towers. That water is cleaned and returned to the Chattahoochee River clean, clear and safe.”

The plant builds on concepts Google used in Belgium, where it treats water from an industrial canal for use in its data center cooling system, allowing the facility to operate without chillers.

Water conservation is an important issue in the Atlanta area, which has been affected by droughts in recent years.

“Our water supply gets hit hard during the drought season and in the summer months,” said Peter Frost, executive director of the Douglas County WSA. “The Google-funded sidestream facility is a welcomed reprieve on our reservoir’s water system and saves water capacity for our residents and businesses.”

Today media and local officials toured the WSA’s Sweetwater Creek Sidestream Plant and Google’s effluent treatment plant. Here’s a video that provides an overview of the project and its impact on the community:

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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3 Comments

  1. Peter

    This can't be economical.

  2. Kudos to Google for taking an active role in reducing their water footprint. This innovative approach benefits everyone. There are smaller scale systems that can capture rooftop rainwater for cooling towers of a single building - often saving millions of gallons per year. And because rainwater is "soft" and free from dissolved solids, the cooling plates require less maintenance and the water less chemicals. Check us out at Wahaso.com.