"The National Security Agency recently reached an agreement with Howard County, Md., officials to utilize recycled wastewater to cool IT equipment in its Maryland data center. However, this isn't the first time this approach has been taken. A number of groups, including computing giant Google, have began recycling treated gray water in their data centers.
Mutually beneficial environmental initiative
According to Washington Post contributor Matthew Hay Brown, as part of the accord with Howard County officials, the NSA will invest approximately $40 million to finance the construction of a pump station. Once completed, the station will supply up to 5 million gallons of water to the NSA data center each day.
In addition, the organization will also pay the county around $2 million each year for the gray water resources, which would otherwise be dumped into the Little Patuxent River. The facility is scheduled to open and begin drawing wastewater for cooling in 2016, Brown reported. Both organizations hope the sustainability project, which is mutually advantageous for the county and the NSA, will serve as a model for others in the industry.
""There are so many benefits to this project,"" Howard County executive Ken Ulman told Brown.
The NSA refers to the 600,000 square foot data center as a ""darkened site,"" meaning the structure will be operated remotely through capable software. In this way, a minimum number of staff engineers and maintenance employees will be on site for repairs or to correct any issues with data center services.
Stephen Gerwin, county utilities bureau chief, also told Brown that the data center has particularly high security since it will be utilized in the defense against national threats.
""I went on the base,"" Gerwin said. ""You watch a film and you sign a document that says if you say anything, you will go to jail for a million years. They're real tight about their security, as they should be.""
Google's recycled water cooling system
Google also utilized a similar approach to data center cooling at its Georgia facility. According to Forbes, the search engine giant in 2012 switched from using tap water it its evaporative cooling system, which had been a resource since the facility opened in 2007.
Jim Brown, data center facilities manager for Google, told Forbes that the organization soon realized that they need not rely on clean water and could instead use treated wastewater for 100 percent of their cooling requirements.
""So we talked to the Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority (known locally as WSA) about setting up a system that uses reuse water - also known as gray or recycled water - in our cooling infrastructure,"" Brown said."