August 2015

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Don't Forget About Water

Data centers consume roughly as much water in a year as 158,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.
Kristen Bauer
Brand Strategist
Robert O'Donnell,
Managing Partner
Aquanomix, LLC

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The Wall Street Journal reported in June 2015 that, “California has more than 800 data centers, the most of any state. Based on that and estimates for water use, the state’s data centers consume roughly as much water in a year as 158,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.”

“A midsize 15-megawatt center uses between 80 million and 130 million gallons of water a year for cooling, according to industry estimates. At the high end of that range, each new facility is akin to planting 100 acres of almond trees, adding three hospitals or opening more than two 18-hole golf courses.”


California Governor Jerry Brown has ordered cities across the state to cut annual water use by 25% - immediately.

US Drought Monitor

The report stated what we in the industrial water and controls industry already know, that, “Data centers aren’t the state’s biggest water users. But they generally require municipally provided clean, treated water like restaurants and hotels. Agriculture, which accounts for roughly 80% of water use in the state, can use untreated water from streams and lakes. Electric utilities, the state’s second largest water consumer, also can sometimes use salt water.”

Addressing how water treatment directly impacts heat exchange, energy use, and water use will ultimately lead to a better water management program, lower operating costs, and a significant improvement in sustainable facilities management. Capital assets (hvac equipment) will be preserved, postponing a capital event, leading to a stronger P&L for the facility owner. While these new programs may be more demanding, this type of service has significantly better profit margins, as compared against open bid arrangements with no performance metrics to define program success.

Historically, controls technology platforms allowed for treating these operating systems by looking primarily at water quality data, and maintained the water conditions using that singular data set. For example, if the system ORP was low, then a subsequent increase in the oxidant feed was delivered. However if the pollen count was high due to seasonal conditions, we waited until we had a visual confirmation (by visual inspection or by test) of resultant biological development and then subsequently increased the biocide dosage.

We treated the water to keep a heat exchanger clean, but the water treatment controller never received verification that the heat exchanger was clean. There was no feedback from the building automation system to the treatment system.

When it comes to commercial and industrial HVAC systems, cooling towers tend to receive less attention than other HVAC system components. According to Chris Walton of Baltimore Aircoil Co., “The cooling tower is often the forgotten component of the system when it comes to maintenance.”2

Yet, cooling tower maintenance is critical to ensuring overall system efficiency, abating critical asset failure, and preventing downtime.3

Todd Beard, regional operations director, Lee Co., Franklin, Tennessee, noted, “When a process or piece of cooling equipment depends on a heat-rejection device such as a cooling tower to function properly, there are not many alternatives that will work in the event the tower fails. In other words, there is typically not a cooling tower sitting in a warehouse somewhere ready to be installed at a moment’s notice. It’s not a matter of if a poorly or non-maintained tower is going to fail — it’s when.”

And, Beard added, “That is when Murphy’s Law comes into play, and the failure occurs at the most inopportune moment; it happens every time.”

Water quality in industrial and commercial HVAC systems requires smart instrumentation for analysis, allowing you to proactively address problems arising from changing make up water chemistries. It also requires smarter control methods to predict and respond to upcoming conditions that could cause corrosion, scaling, fouling, or microbial upsets. This newer control technology must be connected to the systems being treated so that the controller is not blindly treating water for a heat exchange system it cannot see. Instead the control software architecture that monitors the water quality characteristics should also look at the hvac system heat exchange performance data, and preferably, the atmospheric conditions as well.

Marrying the water quality data with the hvac system performance data allows the advanced controls system the opportunity to aggregate and analyze data by running algorithms to determine underperforming system components.



You’ve heard the same adage over and over again. You cannot manage what you do not measure. It’s all about the data, but without a benchmark or a way to structure data, it renders this potentially valuable resource as little to no value to a facility manager or enterprise level executive. It must be organized in a cohesive way to explain the data relationships – in this case, the relationship between heat exchange (energy efficiency) and water quality.


We don’t know what we don’t know.

Facilities managers, enterprise managers, building owners, the powers-that-be expect, and usually require, a veritable return on their investment in data – information that empowers them to make the right decisions. Data and knowledge provide power – understanding how and why heat exchangers are functioning at any given moment is powerful. Combining that previously disparate knowledge of the cooling system operations is priceless.

Data is power.

That is the magic of an effective benchmarking tool – giving the owner, the manager, whoever – the visibility, full transparency of what they are spending on water and energy – and who is responsible for any inefficiencies and OpEx expenditure.

It’s also effective from an enterprise level – benchmarking each system against one another to garner the relational data between all facilities/buildings in an enterprise portfolio.

The value in a technology that marries energy and water quality data is powerful. It reveals transparency of operating costs and water quality management at such a granular level. The data supports swift and intelligent decision-making processes, which can save money and improve outcomes in performance.

Symphony™ helps data centers, other critical facilities, any commercial or industrial building improve reliability and efficiency. By continuously monitoring and analyzing the water quality and energy use, you minimize risk, both critical and operational. As a result, you can get the reliability that management demands.

Reliable Controls Here’s how it works:

The numbers don’t lie.

84% of data center managers would rather walk barefoot over hot coals than endure data center downtime, but 91% experienced an unplanned outage in the past 24 months.

32% of all unplanned outages in commercial and industrial buildings result from water-related issues at an estimated $500,000+ per outage.4

DC Outages

Data centers average one complete outage per year – each complete data center outage costs an average of $901,560.5

4 Emerson Network Power:


DC Outage Stats

It’s tough to manage what you can’t, or don’t, measure. If the main goal of a maintenance or facility professional is to maintain an efficient and operational HVAC system, while maintaining today’s critical sustainability component, smart water and energy efficiency technologies must be implemented into commercial and industrial buildings.

About the Author

Kristen A. Bauer, Brand Strategist

Kristen Bauer is the Brand Strategist at Aquanomix, LLC, based in Davidson, North Carolina, and has more than ten years of experience in the marketing and advertising industry. Kristen specializes in marketing, communications and advertising in the diverse industries of professional sports and engineering.
Prior to launching the revolutionary new Symphony water management and optimization software for Aquanomix, she worked seven years for NASCAR, Inc., as well as working in the advertising agency world managing and strategically promoting Fortune 100 clients.

Kristen is a member of the American Marketing Association.


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