(Bloomberg) -- Thames Water Ltd. is considering measures to reduce data centers’ water use, including adding flow restrictors to pipes and charging more for water at times of peak demand.
The measures are designed to ease pressure on its infrastructure, which comes under great strain when demand surges during hot weather, according to John Hernon, strategic development manager at the UK’s largest water utility.
“During the extreme heat wave and drought last summer we saw the number of leaks at least double, partly due to ground movement, and partly due to the higher pressures we pumped at to meet demand,” Hernon said in an interview.
It comes as data centers face increasing scrutiny of their environmental impact. Running and cooling the servers they house requires large amounts of power and water, and they are often located in concentrated clusters near cities that put a strain on local resources.
The company said it has discussed physically restricting water flow during peak times with at least one London-based data center operator.
“Whilst we are looking at physical methods to reduce water use, including introducing flow restrictions on pipes, we prefer to take a collaborative approach with data centers, including encouraging them to explore water reuse and recycling options on-site,” Hernon said.
A variable tariff could encourage businesses to take water at quieter times, such as during the night, he said.
Hernon’s team has spent the last year investigating how much water data centers are using in and around London. Identifying which water-intensive clients are data centers hasn’t been easy, because data centers can look like any large warehouse or factory from the outside and operators often apply for planning permission using separate companies, according to Hernon.
“Our job as a water company is to build resilience to ensure we keep our customers’ taps flowing and protect our local environment and water resources, including rivers and ground aquifers,” Hernon said.
Thames Water has been struggling to manage its £13 billion ($16.8 billion) debt, which led the UK government to draw up contingency plans including a temporary nationalization, Bloomberg reported in June. That prospect receded after shareholders agreed to put up £750 million of equity earlier this month.