Microsoft’s Data Center Takes Fresh Approach On Water Reuse

Today we are transferring our $ multi-million water treatment plant to city of Quincy, WA

By: Christian Belady, General Manager of Data Center Advanced Development

Around the globe, water is becoming a scarcer and more valuable commodity, and that’s an important factor for data center operators and cloud service providers to consider as consumers and businesses aggressively adopt cloud-based computing. It’s even more critical that all of us in the industry make sure that beyond building sustainability into our designs, running data centers to higher standardize efficiencies, and measuring impact constantly, that we are helping the industry at large in thinking out of the box. 

Today offers one of those opportunities. In Quincy, Washington, we are taking steps to transfer the operations of our Water Treatment Plant, located on our data center site, to the City of Quincy. This project involves innovative agreements for promoting a long term sustainable use of a limited natural resource, water, in a desert area that has the added benefit of supporting the foundation of Quincy and Grant County’s growing economy for years to come. To my knowledge, it is the first known transfer of a water treatment plant to a municipality in our industry and I would like to share why I think this type of collaborative project helps the industry and environment benefit as a whole. 


Microsoft’s Quincy, Washington Water Treatment Plant

Microsoft’s current water treatment plant extracts the minerals from the potable water supply prior to using that water in cooling our local 500,000 square foot data center. (Note: our new modular Quincy data center that went live in January 2011 uses airside economization for cooling and substantially less water).

Moving forward, the City of Quincy will lease the water treatment plant from Microsoft for $10 annually and will provide the company with reduced water rates, with an option to buy it after 30 years. The plant will be operated, maintained and managed by the city with a right to purchase the plant after that time.  By loaning these assets to the City, they were able to save significant construction costs for the new Reuse System.

The strategic location of the water treatment plant will also benefit other local businesses and industrial users, such as other data centers, food storage processing companies, etc. The City of Quincy plans to retrofit the plant as an expanded industrial reuse system in two phases. Following the first phase, the system will generate approximately 400,000 gallons per day (150 million gallons per year) using food processor wastewater effluent. The second phase upgrade is projected to produce 2.5 to 3.0 million gallons per day (1 billion gallons per year), with about 20 percent being used by local industries and the remaining being used to recharge the aquifer around Quincy.

This collaborative partnership with the City of Quincy solves a local sustainability need by taking a fresh look at integrating our available resources and allows Microsoft to focus on its core expertise in meeting the needs of its customers who use our Online, Live and Cloud Services such as Hotmail, Bing, BPOS, Office 365, Windows Live, Xbox Live and the Windows Azure platform.

As I have said before, we will continue to look for ways to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of resources, including water, in our data center designs. Today, this project reflects our firm commitment to that vision. I hope it also sets the stage for a healthy discussion within our industry to continue to explore ways to share our investments and best practices within the industry and regions in which we do business.

For more information on our Quincy, WA data center please watch our data center tour video.


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