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Water Scarcity Jeopardizes Data Center Projects in Chile and Uruguay

New data center projects in Chile and Uruguay are facing mounting opposition from local residents amid growing concerns over water scarcity.

In Quilicura, near the Chilean capital city of Santiago, people are opposing Microsoft’s proposed data center, fearing its significant water consumption could exacerbate the region’s water stress.

Data centers are significant consumers of both electricity and water. As servers process data, they generate substantial heat, necessitating extensive cooling systems that rely heavily on water.

Microsoft acknowledged this in its environmental report, revealing that its data centers consumed nearly 1.7 billion liters of water in 2022.

Water scarcity has become a critical issue in Chile, particularly in Santiago, where authorities have implemented water rationing measures. Last year, nearly half of the region’s 19 million residents were affected by severe water shortages.

Similar challenges are hindering Google’s plans to establish a large data center in Uruguay. The Silicon Valley giant acquired 29 hectares of land for the project in the Canelones department, located in southern Uruguay.

According to Uruguay’s Ministry of Environment, the data center would consume an estimated 7.6 million liters of water per day to cool its servers, equivalent to the daily domestic water usage of approximately 55,000 people.

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Uruguay is currently experiencing its worst drought in 70 years, leading to water shortages not only in the capital, Montevideo, but also across the country.

Recently, protests erupted as officials announced plans to mix saltwater into public drinking water supplies.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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