12 July 2013
By Andrew Adams
More secrets, more water? The NSA data center in Bluffdale could require as many as 1.7 million gallons of water per day to operate and keep computers cool.
Initial reported estimates suggested the center would use 1,200 gallons per minute, but more recent estimates suggest the usage could be closer to half that amount.
"Our planning is anywhere from 1,000 acre-feet per year to 2,000 acre-feet per year, and that represents - if it was 1,000 acre-feet per year, that would be about 1 percent of our total demand," said Jordan Valley River Conservancy District assistant general manager and chief engineer Alan Packard.
Packard said that amount of water - while large - could be easily accommodated and was on par with industrial operations such as soft drink bottling plants.
"At build-out, it will be several years before the data center uses that amount of water, so we have the opportunity to prepare for that through both conservation and developing new supplies," Packard said.
Packard said the district was actively working to develop the new supplies - including those at the Southwest Groundwater Project, the Central Utah Project and additional groundwater development in the Salt Lake valley.
"It's no more than we were already planning," Packard said. "Our normal activities are designed to accommodate this kind of demand on our system."
Bluffdale City manager Mark Reid described the NSA project and the new water and electrical infrastructure around it as a significant benefit to the city.
Reid said Bluffdale otherwise wouldn't have had the resources to improve the land all the way to the south end of the city limits. Instead, the government funded $7 million in infrastructure to the data center, and an additional $5 million in infrastructure back from the site that will allow a third of the water used at the facility to be recycled.
The water would be used at the city park and on some of the city's lawns, Reid said.
Reid said the city was now pursuing other technology business to relocate to the south end of Bluffdale.
"We're looking to try and combine with Salt Lake County to make that a jobs area," Reid said.
Upon hearing the initial estimates of the NSA center's water use, some residents were skeptical.
"We live in a desert and so it seems like an excess," said Barbara Ericksmoen. "Am I concerned about it? On the fence."
Terry Keddington said he didn't see a problem with the water use or the growth.
"Compared to what it was when I moved out here 30 years ago, it's just grow, grow, grow," Keddington said. "It doesn't surprise me that it's going to grow a little bit more."