Environment Sustainability in the Cloud
Water Stewardship
An illustration symbolizing AWS initiatives to improve water efficiency to reduce use of water for cooling data centers.
An illustration symbolizing AWS initiatives to improve water efficiency to reduce use of water for cooling data centers.

Water Stewardship

AWS has multiple initiatives underway to use water more efficiently and use less potable (drinking) water to cool our data centres. AWS develops our water-use strategy by evaluating climate patterns for each AWS Region, local water management and availability, and the opportunity to conserve drinking water sources.
Water Use Strategies
Taking a holistic approach, we assess both the water and energy usage of each potential cooling solution to select the most efficient method.

When possible, AWS incorporates direct evaporative technology to cool our data centres, reducing energy and water consumption. During cooler months, outside air is supplied directly to the data centre without using any water. During the hottest months of the year, outside air is cooled through an evaporative process using water before being pushed into the server rooms, and we have optimised these cooling systems to minimise water usage. AWS is constantly innovating the design of our cooling systems to further reduce water use, and we adapt to changing weather conditions based on real-time sensor data.

To help conserve local drinking water sources, AWS is expanding our use of non-potable water for cooling purposes. In Northern Virginia, AWS was the first data centre operator to be approved to use recycled water with direct evaporative cooling technology. We partnered with Loudoun Water to demonstrate the benefits of recycled water for industrial cooling applications and shared our operational best practices for using recycled water in our data centres. In the AWS US West (Oregon) Region, we partnered with a local utility to use non-potable water for multiple data centres, and in Northern California, we are retrofitting AWS data centres to use recycled water.

AWS is working with local utilities to expand distribution infrastructure and drive faster implementation and adoption of recycled water for data centre cooling applications, in order to reduce our usage of potable water.

AWS is implementing on-site modular water treatment systems in multiple regions. As water is cycled through evaporative cooling units, minerals build up as water evaporates, eventually reaching a level of concentration that requires replacement with fresh water. On-site water treatment allows us to remove scale-forming minerals and reuse water for more cycles. Increasing our ‘cycles of concentration’ allows us to continue to reduce the water intake needed to cool our data centres.

In each infrastructure region where we use water for cooling, AWS has developed water efficiency metrics to determine and monitor optimal water use for each AWS Region, and we employ a data-driven approach to select the most effective water reduction technologies. Water metrics from each AWS Region help us evaluate technologies and understand their long-term impacts on our water usage, in order to increase efficiency as our infrastructure grows and we expand into new regions.

We are partnering with utilities to connect directly to utility water meters, and we are also installing our own meters to track real-time water usage to provide consistent data for our operations and sustainability teams. By analysing this data, AWS can identify opportunities to reduce water usage and rapidly make operational changes, rather than waiting for bills or usage reports.

Using Renewable Energy to Save Water
Shifting to renewable energy has environmental benefits beyond lowering carbon emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, the energy sector is responsible for 10 % of global water withdrawals, used for operating thermal power plants and producing fuels. Unlike thermal power plants, wind and solar plants do not require large amounts of water to operate. In 2020, Amazon’s renewable energy generation helped to avoid the withdrawal of about 480 billion litres of water – enough to supply 1 million American households or fill up 190,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools each year.
Community Water Programmes
Along with reducing our water usage, AWS looks for opportunities to return water to the community.
  • Water for Irrigation
    In our US West (Oregon) Region, for example, we partnered with the City of Umatilla and the West Extension Irrigation District to deliver water to farmers. Since our cooling water is not dirty, instead of sending it to a wastewater treatment plant, we deliver it to the local community to be re-purposed for irrigation.
  • Community Water
    We are partnering with Water.org and WaterAid in India and Indonesia, where water filtration plants, rainwater harvesting systems and groundwater recharge projects will bring a combined 946 million litres of water per year to 165,000 people.
  • Watershed Restoration
    We are also funding watershed restoration efforts with The Nature Conservancy in Cape Town and São Paulo that will increase water supply availability by 155 million litres per year.
Sustainability in Europe- Water Conservation in Sweden, emphasizing prevention of pollution spread
AWS is working with the Swedish municipality of Katrineholm and local water supply company Sörmland Vatten to support a vital upgrade of the town’s stormwater infrastructure, creating a new wetland just outside of Katrineholm in Stora Djulö. The project is due for completion in 2026 and will help reduce flooding, improve water quality and biodiversity, and provide citizens with a new recreational space for outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling and birdwatching.
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