Ryan Whitwam
July 15, 2013

Data centers are notorious for using a lot of power and other resources, but residents of Bluffdale, Utah are a little annoyed by the volume of water that will soon begin flowing to a new NSA facility. When it is completed in September, cooling the massive collection of servers will require as much as 1.7 million gallons of water each day. That’s no drop in the bucket when you’re in the middle of a desert like Bluffdale happens to be.

The data center, or Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center as it’s more properly known, is a 1-1.5 million square foot facility with about 100,000 square feet devoted to data storage. What kind of data? Well, this is the NSA so the official answer is, “that’s classified.” More generally, the data center will be processing the contents of electronic communications including phone calls, emails, and internet searches. Basically, it probably has something to do with PRISM.

This facility will use as much water as several thousand average homes, but roughly one third of that volume can be recycled and used for watering lawns. The city expects the data center to account for roughly 1% of all water use in the region and is currently investigating additional sources of water.

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