New battleground in ESG investing
- Market Watch
In the tech sector, water is critical for data centers and semiconductor fabless and fabrication manufacturers. Data centers used 656 billion liters (173 billion gallons) of water in 2014, according to the 2022 report Global Assessment of Private Sector Impacts on Water from Ceres, a nonprofit organization focused on a sustainable economy.
Water cools servers and other equipment, and indirectly some data centers get electricity generated by thermoelectric power. A medium-sized data center of 15 megawatts uses as much water annually as three average-sized hospitals or more than two 18-hole golf courses. These operators have made efforts since 2017 to use more non-potable water, but as of 2019, 57% of data-center water consumption is of drinking water.
Semiconductor production requires ultrapure water for manufacturing at fabrication facilities and for cooling. Ceres notes the average semiconductor factory uses 15 million liters of water daily. In the push for more electric vehicles, chip sales and water usage will only increase. Ceres says that water use by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing TSM grew to 197.9 million liters annually in 2019, up from 43.4 million liters in 2009. Wastewater from semiconductor production includes an array of chemicals and toxic metal pollutants.