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The Hidden Environmental Impacts of Data Storage Centers

We don't typically think about what it takes to store all our email, videos, and other data in the cloud, but data centers are taking a toll on local water and electricity sources. U.S. data centers, typically located around Dallas, the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles, use an enormous amount of water, straining water sources. Each data center using water to cool their servers uses the daily equivalent of 1000 households, which depletes some aquifers, and leaves wastewater that must be treated by local utilities.

Michael Copley's article from National Public Radio (NPR) highlights the hidden environmental costs that communities are grappling with in relation to data centers. According to the article, 20% of data centers rely on watersheds that are under stress from drought and other factors.

Also addressed in the article is that companies are reticent to discuss the topic as public image can be tarnished without currently having any good solutions. Complex issues such as these often take complex solutions, and this article is a good start to kick off the discussion of how to address our vast digital storage needs without further exacerbating environmental issues.

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