Amazon Web Services (AWS) will return more water to communities than it uses indirect operations at its data centers and Cloud operations, its CEO Adam Selipsky has said.

Addressing the “AWS Re: Invent 2022” conference here, Selipsky said that water scarcity is a major issue around the world.

“With today’s water-positive announcement, we are committing to do our part to help solve this rapidly growing challenge,” said Selipsky on the first day of the flagship conference late on Monday.

“In just a few years half of the world’s population is projected to live in water-stressed areas, so to ensure all people have access to water, we all need to innovate new ways to help conserve and reuse this precious resource,” he noted.

For AWS operations, water is an essential resource. It’s primarily used for cooling data centers around the world.

The Amazon company has committed to being water positive by 2030 and so far, AWS-funded replenishment projects have returned nearly 2.4 billion liters of water to communities and the environment.

MIT researchers estimate that 52 percent of the world’s projected 9.7 billion people will live in water-stressed areas as a result of climate change by 2050.

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Under the new water-positive pledge, AWS said it was putting in place a water use efficiency (WUE) metric of “0.25 liters of water per kilowatt-hour” as a display of its “leadership in water efficiency” among cloud providers.

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As a principal mechanical engineer, Suresh Soundararaj’s job is to design efficient cooling systems for AWS data centers. He said that in an ideal world, AWS wouldn’t use any water at all, but water is a crucial tool for cooling.

“An AWS data center is a labyrinth of servers, routers, and networking cables, and all this hardware gets pretty hot, so we need to cool it,” said Soundararaj. “One of the ways we do this is with water.”

The preferred cooling strategy for AWS data centers uses evaporative technologies.

In this system, hot air is pulled from outside and pushed through water-soaked cooling pads.

The water evaporates and cools the temperature of the air sent to the server rooms.

AWS also invests in on-site water-treatment systems that remove scale-forming minerals and allow the company to recycle more water on-site and minimize the water consumed for cooling.

To further improve water efficiency, AWS uses real-time water use data to identify leaks, pilot new treatment technologies, and explore a range of operational changes, according to the company.

AWS is also working to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 as part of The Climate Pledge, which Amazon committed to in 2019.