In the midst of a water shortage, the Netherlands discovers the dantesque consumption of Microsoft data centers

The consumption of more than 84 million liters of water by a Microsoft data center makes people cringe in the Netherlands.

© Orange/Daisy Reillet

It has become a recurring phenomenon: with each heat wave, citizens discover and criticize the greenhouse gas emissions of companies or billionaires. In the Netherlands, it is the largely underestimated water consumption of a Microsoft data center that raises many criticisms while the country is experiencing an intense drought.

A data center that consumes four times more than announced

While Microsoft claimed that its data center in the north of the country needed “only” 12 to 20 million liters of water per year, the real consumption would actually amount to 84 million, according to the Noordhollands newspaper. Dagblad. Beyond the highly questionable ecological aspect at a time when a good part of Europe’s arable land is found to be burned by the heat, such figures also annoy the population, who are asked to make daily efforts to limit the use of the water. Hard to hear when you learn that just one of Microsoft’s data centers can consume as much as 1,750 Dutch people in a year. An observation that makes one cringe all the more in view of the apparent bad faith of the American company,

The controversy, moreover, does not seem about to stop. An independent expert, hired by Microsoft, for his part, estimated the quantity of water consumed at more than 100 million liters this year… Microsoft defended itself by arguing that these were figures from the previous year, during which temperatures, even in summer, had rarely exceeded 25 degrees.

The ecological balance sheet of data centers is widely criticized in Europe

If the water consumption of these huge data centers may surprise, these complexes were also already widely criticized for their energy needs. Needs of which a large part is already devoted… to cooling. The opacity of the digital giants, who are reluctant to provide information on the subject, also contributes to the rather unfavorable public opinion towards data centers.

The Dutch government, particularly at the forefront on the subject, tries to impose strict regulations on their territory. At its level, Europe also wishes to impose on data centers an obligation of transparency, in particular with regard to their energy consumption.


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