‘Data centres in Noord-Holland can lead to drinking water shortage’

Data centers in Noord-Holland use so much water to cool the equipment, that there may be a shortage of drinking water for households. According to De Cceit, this is evident from internal pieces of the province of Noord-Holland. In addition, unknown chemicals are added to the cooling water that end up in the environment. According to the newspaper, officials deliberately did not publish a critical investigative report on this. The county denies this.

Two existing data centres in the municipality of Hollands Kroon are estimated to consume 525 cubic per hour of drinking water. It would be 4.6 million cubic per year. For comparison, according to Nibud, that equals more than 28,000 four-person households.

The municipality wants to grant permits for five more new data centres, which would increase the need for cooling water by about 10 million cubic per year. An online webinar from the province of North Holland shows that โ€œa freshwater shortage may occur during extreme weather conditionsโ€.

โ€œNot kept under the cap.โ€

The province of Noord-Holland contradicts the fact that a report has been kept under the cap. According to a spokesman, research has indeed been carried out on behalf of the province of water consumption by data centres and the effects of prolonged dry summers on water supply.

However, the Province claimed that the sample of that investigation was too small and that the conclusions of the report were not sufficiently substantiated. Therefore, according to the Province, it was decided not to publish the report.

Cees Logging, deputy spatial planning of the province of Noord-Holland, writes in a blog that a provincial data centre strategy is being developed, which includes water and energy consumption and spatial impact. The plan is to send that data strategy to the Provincial States for the summer.

Comment Microsoft

One of the companies with a large data center in North Holland is Microsoft. The tech company responds to the reports with a statement that their data centers in the Netherlands are mainly cooled by direct outside air. โ€œApproximately 95% of the year, depending on the temperature on the spot. For the rest of the year, evaporated water is used to cool the data center. The conditions of this business are well adapted to the Dutch climate, so our annual water consumption is kept to a minimum.โ€ In addition, the company claims to invest in the development of new cooling technologies.

Microsoft stresses that chemical treatment to maintain the quality of cooling water is compliant with regulatory requirements.

Van Nieuwenhuizen: message alarming

Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen says in a reaction that she wants to find out exactly what is going on and that she contacts the province of Noord-Holland: โ€œThis is the competent authority for the permits.โ€ And, according to the demissionary Minister for Infrastructure, the province must also keep an eye on the importance of drinking water supply. Municipalities and water boards must also adhere to the standards, she emphasises.

The Minister finds the message โ€œrather alarmingโ€ and therefore it is necessary to clarify what is going on: โ€œWe will make sure that the supply of drinking water is not compromised.โ€

National drinking water supply

Professor of Administration Michiel de Vries looked at that aforementioned webinar and is critical of the course of events. Among other things, he is concerned about the use of chemicals to kill bacteria in the cooling water and prevent lime deposition. โ€œThat is discharged again on surface water, on canals and the IJsselmeer, you name it. Thats a Natura 2000 site. It is our national drinking water supply,โ€ says De Vries in the CCEit Radio 1 Journal.

According to De Vries, water consumption is not taken into account at all when granting permits. โ€œWhere I have to comply with all kinds of permits when I have to renovate my home, the governments do not impose any requirements on the data centres in terms of energy and water consumption.โ€

More Criticism on Data Centers

There has been criticism of the arrival of large data centers in North Holland for a long time. There are complaints about horizon pollution, the disappearance of agricultural land, the enormous energy consumption and the use of cooling water.

The largest wind farm in the Netherlands was opened in September last year in the Wieringermeer. The mills can generate power for 370,000 households, but most of the electricity goes to a Microsoft data center. That issue was discussed in the TV program Sunday with Lubach.