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Apple funding wastewater treatment centre in Oregon

Fri 1 Jul 2016

Apple confirmed that it will fund a wastewater treatment facility in the tiny town of Prineville, Oregon which houses data centres for Apple and Facebook. The company recently broke ground on a second data centre in Prineville.

Apple agreed to pay for the treatment facility, which the city says may save as much as 5 million gallons of water per year. The company is already Prineville’s largest consumer of water, using 27 million gallons last year according to city estimates. This water was used in the existing 338,000 foot data centre, other associated modular structures, and in the construction of the new data centre in town; and while the massive construction project may have inflated last year’s water usage, neither the town nor the company could predict how much water the data centres themselves will use once construction is complete. While the company did not provide an estimate, the city believes that the total cost of the new wastewater treatment project could run to millions of dollars.

The water will come from Prineville’s regular sewage system and will be re-used in evaporated cooling systems in Apple’s data centres. While the wastewater will be treated to a level rated clean enough to drink, it will not be released into the city water system, but will instead be piped directly into the Apple facilities. Because the new treatment will also reduce the mineral content in the water used to cool Apple’s data centres, it can be used longer for cooling before being sent back for further treatment, increasing the efficiency of water usage even more.

There is the potential for expansion of the wastewater treatment facility in the future, to serve other data centres or different industries that may come to Prineville. Oregon is particularly attractive to companies setting up large data centres, in part because it provides tax breaks on the sales of expensive equipment and on property.

Apple has a history of environmental stewardship in its Prineville locations. In 2014, Apple acquired a hydroelectric project in central Oregon with an estimated production of 12 million kilowatt-hours of power, and with much of its remaining power drawn from wind energy. The company recently announced that it would begin to harness energy from landfill gases at its North Carolina plant, using trapped methane gases to create energy and preventing their release into the atmosphere.

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