AI depletes Arizona's water sources

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The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and the operation of data centers are indeed having an impact on water resources in Arizona, particularly in the context of cooling needs for the data centers. Microsoft, which has made a commitment to OpenAI, operates numerous data centers worldwide and is projected to use significant amounts of water in its Arizona facilities. For example, one report indicates that a Microsoft data center complex in Arizona is expected to use about 56 million gallons of drinking water each year, which is equivalent to the water usage of approximately 670 families1. This is occurring in a region that has experienced its hottest summer on record and is facing severe drought conditions, with the Colorado River's water levels dwindling1. However, it's important to note that AI is also being used to improve water management and conservation in Arizona. For instance, the city of Phoenix has launched a wastewater treatment pilot program with AI company Kando to monitor wastewater and detect irregularities, which can help prevent damage to wastewater plants and pipes2. Additionally, AI-based algorithms are being explored to optimize water use in buildings and contribute to water conservation efforts3. Furthermore, Arizona is using AI to centralize data collection and automate analyses from water resources in the state, which can lead to better-informed decision-making regarding water usage and conservation4. The city of Phoenix is also proactive in building infrastructure and systems to secure a reliable and clean 100-year water supply by 2050, with 97% of its wastewater being recycled for various uses2. In the broader context, technology companies are transitioning some data centers to designs that use less or no water, cooling themselves with giant fans instead14. Microsoft, in particular, has pledged to be carbon-negative and water-positive by the end of the decade, which includes replenishing more clean water than it consumes1. In summary, while the growth of AI and data centers in Arizona is contributing to the region's water consumption, AI is also being leveraged to improve water management and conservation. The situation reflects a complex interplay between the resource-intensive demands of technology and innovative efforts to mitigate environmental impacts.
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