Editorials United States

As More Data Centers Move East, Water Scarcity Concerns Rise for the Residents

Recently severe drought hit Virginia. In recent years, more data centers have moved from the West Coast to East Coast. This has many residents worrying about water scarcity. Data centers require electricity to run the computer equipment, and it also requires cooling down servers and maintaining a certain temperature. They currently use about 2% of the nation’s total electricity supplies. Data centers can use traditional air conditioning or use water to evaporate and cool down the servers; usually, water is preferred as the cheaper choice.

With more data centers being built across northern Virginia, residents are becoming increasingly concerned with the cutting down of trees, increase in traffic jams and congestion (even more), as well as noise ( from data centers to nearby neighborhoods and elementary schools.

Many residents have become concerned with the aesthetics of living next to a large, usually blocky concrete structure that emits loud noises and uses up too much water and electricity.

More than 30% of the world’s data centers are located in the United States, according to the Washington Post, and Virginia (VA) has over 300 data centers, making it the state which has the most data centers in the United States. Of this total, ~90% or 275 data centers reside in Northern Virginia, specifically in Loudoun County, Prince William County, and Fairfax County, according to a Google search (Aug 16, 2022).

Virginia is a very popular state for data centers as it offers lower taxes for the requirement of employment and meets the statutory investment. According to VEDP, “Virginia offers an exemption from retail sales and uses tax for qualifying computer equipment purchased by data centers that meet statutory investment and employment requirements. Virginia was the first state to allow the tenants of colocation data centers to receive the benefit of the sales tax exemption. In addition, local business property tax rates on computers and related equipment for data centers have been reduced by a number of localities.”

That’s great, Virginia, but Data Centers are also consuming significant amounts of water and electricity; as summer approaches and the burden on water and electricity increases, how will this impact us? Furthermore, as Virginia gets drier, who will have to bear the burden of the extensive amount of data centers now in place?

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