As part of our commitment to water stewardship, we actively work to reduce our water footprint and are transparent about our water data. We strive to be good water stewards by restoring the water we consume in water-stressed regions and by working with others to advance industry understanding and practices.


Managing Our Water Use

Water is a finite resource, and every drop matters. 

At our data centers, water is mainly used in two ways: evaporative cooling and humidification. Our evaporative cooling system converts water into vapor to lower the temperature in our data centers, while our humidification process maintains the humidity of our data centers to the current standard. As a result of our innovative design choices and commitment to operational excellence, our data centers are over 80 percent more water efficient than the average data center, and we are always striving to become more efficient. 

Currently, the servers in our data centers are designed to operate between 65°F and 85°F (18°C and 30°C) and in relative humidity of 20 to 80 percent. In 2020, we completed an operational pilot project that explored the possibility of operating at a lower relative humidity limit as a potential way to increase our water efficiency and conserve water. The pilot program was successful as we reduced relative humidity to 13 percent and achieved an overall water savings of more than 40 percent when operating at a lower relative humidity level. Since then, we have been building on the program’s success to implement similar lower relative humidity setpoints at our other existing data centers, while also making this the new standard for our future data centers. 

Our pilot project that evaluates water savings of operating at a lower relative humidity at our data center.

Our efforts to source more renewable energy have also reduced our water usage. Through Facebook’s renewable energy procurement, we have found tremendous water savings compared with sourcing energy from the standard utility energy mix, since renewable energy sources require less water to generate electricity than fossil fuels.

In 2020, we sourced 7.1 billion kWh of renewable energy to support our operations, leading to a savings of 1.4 billion cubic meters (over 380 billion gallons)—enough to fill 560,000 Olympic swimming pools. As part of our commitment to transparency, Facebook is also one of the few companies to publicly report data on water embedded in energy procurement. 

2020 Water Data

In 2020, Facebook locally restored nearly 5.8 million cubic meters in high water-stressed regions.

Unit: Cubic Meters2017201820192020
Water Withdrawal1,609,0002,367,0003,430,0003,833,000
Water Consumption838,0001,279,0001,971,0002,270,000
Water Restoration*N/A132,000145,0005,794,000
*Reported volumes represent total volume restored through water restoration projects for each year, not including contracted projects not yet implemented.

Supporting Water Restoration

In addition to efforts to maximize efficiency in our operational water use, a key component of our water stewardship strategy is supporting projects that restore local watersheds near our data center communities. 

Part of that strategy involves partnering with local, trusted environmental nonprofits that share our vision to identify and support water restoration projects that benefit neighboring communities, especially those in water-stressed regions. 

Restoring local watersheds is not only essential for the global communities that they support; these projects also play a critical role in preserving local habitats and advancing biodiversity. When identifying restoration projects to support, we prioritize those that help maintain local wildlife habitats and species.

Our overarching vision is to continue expanding our support for water restoration projects, while restoring 100 percent of water consumed at our data centers located in high-risk areas. To date, we have contracted 10 water projects in four high-risk regions, expecting to save approximately 6 million cubic meters (~1.6 billion gallons) each year. 

In 2020, we restored more than 1.5 times our total water consumption to the watersheds where we operate. We also added three new restoration projects in New Mexico, Utah, and California. 

2020 New Water Restoration Projects

StateWatershedProjectContacted Volume m3/year
(gallons/year)
New MexicoRio GrandeMiddle Rio Grande Flow Restoration
Water rights lease to reduce withdrawal
123,000 m3
(~33 million gal/yr)
UtahProvo RiverProvo River Olmstead Power Station
Water rights lease to reduce withdrawal
2,090,000 m3
(~550 million gal/yr)
CaliforniaSacramento RiverSacramento River Wildfire Recovery Reforestation
Reforestation to reduce runoff
140,000 m3
(~37 million gal/yr)*
Total Volume Contracted
in 2020 (m3)
2,353,000 m3
(~ 622 million gal/year)
*Project started in 2020 and we are expecting benefits in 2021.

New Mexico

Since 2018, we have worked closely with The Audubon Society in New Mexico to address shared water challenges in the Rio Grande watershed through an innovative water leasing project. Through this project, the Audubon Society leases water from the City of Bernalillo, City of Belen and Village of Los Lunas delivering it to key wetland and channel areas in the Isleta Reach of the Rio Grande that lack adequate water to support riparian, in-channel, and environmental function. 

In 2020, we extended our project support for another eight years, restoring approximately 123,400 cubic meters per year. This eight-year flow restoration project is the first long-term commitment to lease water for environmental flows in the Rio Grande. To maximize the duration of flows to the Isleta Reach, the water was combined with volumes acquired through other leases, and together the leases helped keep 35 river miles flowing or wetted in 2020. This was crucial to sustain wetland vegetation and fish and wildlife habitat during normally dry periods; a total of 75 bird species were identified at three monitored locations in the project area in July 2020.

California

California experienced one of the worst wildfire years in the state’s history in 2018, when over 1.8 million acres of its forestland were engulfed in flames. To restore these areas, Arbor Day Foundation and American Forest Foundation are planting two million trees on 8,000 acres, focusing on large swathes of private lands that are often omitted from governmental revitalization efforts. 

In 2020, we supported the planting of 70,000 trees on 280 acres. This restoration of burned lands is expected to provide water benefits by reducing runoff and erosion, while restoring local habitat and providing economic opportunity through sustainable timber harvesting to local landowners.  

Provo River before and after flow restoration. Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Trout Unlimited

Utah

For over 100 years, lower Provo River flows have been diverted out of the river at Olmstead Diversion Dam for hydropower generation. As a result, in-river flows were reduced for an approximately five-mile stretch of the river, with very significant low flow impacts occurring in the most downstream 1.2-mile portion. During periods of high irrigation demand, river flows have dropped below five cubic feet per second (cfs), resulting in warmer water and reduced oxygen levels, which can be fatal to wild brown and rainbow trout populations in this popular fishery. 

Facebook was the initial funder of this collaborative project to increase flows in the lower Provo River, supporting the Central Utah Water Conservancy District to help ensure 1.6 million cubic meters (416 million gallons) of water remains in the river during the hottest months of the year for a 10-year period. Our initial funding has since been used to raise additional funds to help ensure 4.5 million cubic meters (over 1.2 billion gallons) of water remains in the river between April 15 and October 15 of each year through 2029. These flows will be measured and dedicated to support instream flow in the project reach.

Moving Industry Standards Forward

Industry collaboration is essential if we want to scale impact, which is why we actively engage in partnerships and projects that advance best practices in corporate water stewardship—developing tools, driving collaboration and understanding around key water risks, and setting goals to move the industry forward. As part of our collaborative efforts, Facebook is a member of the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Alliance and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s Change the Course Program to spur water restoration projects within our communities. 

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