Internet, datacenters and water footprints

Goyal, Varun ; Goyal, Vikas Chandra


Digital revolution is making a big contribution in India's fast-pace development. Digital media's role in the fields of economy, entertainment, communication, research, etc. is enormous, and has developed along with the other technologies. According to a report, every Indian was using an average of 12 GB internet data per month until 2019 (highest in the world), which is estimated to rise to 25 GB/month by 2025. Although rising trend of internet users is a welcome indicator, but we should be aware of the pressures on the available resources due to the use of internet data (e.g. water footprint of using 1 GB of internet data). Owing to the growing demand of internet use, and due to large market opportunitites and favourable conditions, many investers are considering establishment of data centres in India. These data centres work 24x7 and consume enourmous energy. In America alone, these data centres consumed 62,600 crore litres of water in the year 2014. The capacity of data centres established in India until 1st half of 2020 was 375 MW and according to a report, it is estimated to become 1078 MW by 2025. The water footprint data of data centres in India are either not available or not made public for some reasons. This requires careful study and formulation of a policy for establishment and operation of data centres in India. MeitY (GoI) has recently drafted a Data Centre Policy-2020, which unfortunately does not explicitly mention about the water footprint of data centres or water conservation measures to be adopted by the data centres in India. Such data centre companies should also be mandated to contribute their CSR funds towards conservation of local water resources and promotion of circular economy (CE) in their respective areas. In view of the pressures on the limited water resources available in India, it is imperative to study the water footprint of data centres and to develop appropriate technology-based solutions for mitigation of adverse impacts on the water resources. This paper presents a thought-provoking overview of all these aspects.

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