Partnering with the City of Quincy to open Washington’s first industrial water reuse center
Microsoft is committed to being water positive by 2030, meaning that Microsoft will replenish more water than it consumes globally. This goal will be met by reducing the water used per megawatt of energy used for operations and replenishing water in the water-stressed regions where Microsoft operates.
Across its datacenter facilities, Microsoft uses outside air cooling for, on average, nine months of the year. External temperatures and humidity play a key role in determining when additional cooling is required. When needed, datacenters use an adiabatic cooling system, which is highly efficient, uses less electricity, and uses up to 90 percent less water than other water-based cooling systems. Because adiabatic cooling operates similar to “swamp coolers” in residential homes, the water needs to be potable to ensure employees are breathing in healthy air.
Improving reuse of industrial wastewater
Quincy, a city in dry Eastern Washington, is home to a Microsoft datacenter. The city of Quincy uses around 2.2 billion gallons of water from aquifers below ground in a typical year. That’s the amount of water generally used by 30,000 people in a year, despite a population of only 8,200. The larger volume of water consumption can be attributed to the industry partners located in Quincy.
In order to encourage the most efficient use of industrial water resources in Quincy, Microsoft contributed tens of millions of dollars toward a water reuse facility that celebrated its grand opening on June 30, 2021. This treatment facility, the first of its kind in Washington state and over 10 years in the making, will process cooling water for reuse by local industries, including datacenters, creating a closed loop system so wastewater isn’t discharged to the environment and decreasing the need for potable well-water required for datacenter cooling.
Creating measurable impact and continuing to innovate
According to Bob Davis, a project manager with engineering firm Worley, which oversaw construction of the project, the Quincy Water Reuse Utility (QWRU) will save an estimated 380 million gallons of potable water per year, enough for 5,450 people. The QWRU is comprised of 10 separate treatment facilities that filter out salt, metals, and minerals in a complex process connected by 35 miles of pipe. Quincy City Administrator Pat Haley said that eventually the city would like to find a way to treat and reuse the wastewater generated by the city’s food processors and Quincy’s 8,200 residents. “That’s the goal,” he said. “Don’t throw this water down the drain.”