Google recently submitted a Department of Health and Environmental Control permit application to increase the amount of groundwater it pumps to cool its data center in Berkeley County.
As DHEC reviews this application, it’s important for citizens to fully understand what the water is used for and the steps Google takes to ensure it is being a responsible steward of the Lowcountry’s natural resources.
Google’s data centers are the engines of the internet, operating 24 hours a day to power products like Google Search, Gmail, and YouTube for billions of people around the world. These tools enable our businesses and our daily lives. Can we imagine life today without them?
To keep these critical data centers running, water is needed to cool the servers, the high-performance computers at the heart of Google’s operations. To supply water to the data center in Berkeley County, Google’s first priority has always been to use potable water from its local provider, Berkeley County Water and Sanitation, which draws its water from Lake Moultrie. For the past few years, BCWS and Charleston Water System have been in discussions to provide additional water to Berkeley County to support our residents and local industry growth.
Potable water is Google’s preferred source, but sufficient resources aren’t available to support the expansion of the data center. Because of the limited availability of potable water, Google seeks to increase the amount of groundwater it draws.
Groundwater is plentiful, renewable and, most importantly, can be accessed safely. The Middendorf/McQueen Branch aquifer (also known as the Charleston aquifer) meets all of Google’s criteria.
About 200 million gallons of groundwater flows through the McQueen branch aquifer in Berkeley County every day, and Google has proposed to draw less than 1 percent of that amount. Google has asked to withdraw 1.5 million gallons daily.
This amount requested is the maximum withdrawal limit, not the data center’s projected daily withdrawal. From reading a recent Post and Courier editorial, it’s easy to conclude that Google is the largest local user of groundwater, when in fact it is just a small portion of daily water use.
There are more than 40 total permitted withdrawals in the region and at least 40 individual permittees. If Google’s application to withdraw 1.5 million gallons per day is approved, it will become the fifth-largest water user in the tri-county area.
Google recently announced a $600 million expansion in Berkeley County, and this water permit is a critical component of its long-term plans. The DHEC application makes clear the actual daily withdrawal from the aquifer would be far less than the requested amount.
Groundwater use is to be used as a backup to potable water that the data center purchases from BCWS, to satisfy peak needs from time to time and to ensure its operations will not face a water shortage.
Google prides itself on efficient strategies to help keep both water use and energy use low. For every liter of water used for cooling, two liters of water are saved that otherwise would be used for producing electricity at power plants. As Google continues to grow, it will continue to pursue technologies that conserve water.
The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce is proud to have Google as part of the Berkeley County community, and we encourage DHEC to approve its application. As a 10-year corporate and community champion, Google has consistently demonstrated its environmental stewardship, its support for our schools and its leadership in moving Berkeley County forward.
Elaine M. Morgan
Berkeley County Chamber
Old Highway 52