Water Main Breaks: A Data Center Challenge

Could your data center operate if it lost its water supply? This summer's heat wave is causing a jump in water main breaks, causing at least one data center operator to scramble to protect customer equipment.

Rich Miller

August 22, 2011

1 Min Read
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Could your data center operate if it lost its water supply? Water is crucial to the operation of many data centers. This summer's heat wave in much of the U.S. has taxed the water infrastructure in many areas, causing a jump in water main breaks due to the combination of dry round and increased usage.

One of the areas experiencing this scenario is San Antonio, where the local utility has had staff working overtime to address water main breaks. When the area's clay-based soil here dries out, it contracts and puts a twisting pressure on the mains, according to the San Antonio Water System. If there's any weakness in the mains, they can rupture.

One of those water main breaks resulted in a cooling challenge for hosting provider Peer 1, one of many data center operators with facilities in San Antonio. On August 7, Peer 1 lost its primary water supply due to a broken water main, creating a "critical situation" for its cooling ssytem.

"Half of our CRAC units are non-functional because of water loss," Peer 1 reported on its customer forum. "The San Antonio utility has told us a water main break is the cause of the water failure. At this point temperatures in the DC are slowly rising. We are currently deploying temporary A/C units to restore normal temperatures. If temperatures continue to rise we may have to start shutting servers down to prevent damage to the equipment."

Fortunately, utility service was restored within 45 minutes, and Peer 1 was able to restore cooling within the data center.

What are the challenges and possible responses in water main breaks? Share your thoughts and experience in the comments.


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