In my Dynamic PUE post I made a point that water could be overlooked in an overzealous focus on PUE. Without plentiful inexpensive water many cooling systems would be in serious problems. Some data centers have wisely looked at how they integrate with a municipalities water system, and some are using gray water in their cooling system.
By coincidence MSBNC posted an article on how the drought in the Southeast could shut down nuclear power plants.
“Water is the nuclear industry’s Achilles’ heel,” said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. “You need a lot of water to operate nuclear plants.” He added: “This is becoming a crisis.”
An Associated Press analysis of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors found that 24 are in areas experiencing the most severe levels of drought. All but two are built on the shores of lakes and rivers and rely on submerged intake pipes to draw billions of gallons of water for use in cooling and condensing steam after it has turned the plants’ turbines.
Water rights are a complicated issue, and many times the first rights go to livestock. If you want to read an interesting perspective on water and the American west check out Cadillac Desert.