Facebook has announced plans to become “water positive” by 2030, restoring more water than the company consumes globally.
The firm is leaning further into a virtuous skirmish between the world’s largest technology players, as they all compete to be the first to achieve carbon neutrality, commit to offsetting the emissions created by their customers as well as their own operations, and even plan to eliminate all carbon emitted over the organisation’s lifetime.
“Facebook has always strived to responsibly manage how we use water resources in the communities we operate in,” said Sylvia Lee, Facebook’s sustainability water lead. “We follow a water stewardship strategy that focuses on sourcing water responsibly, driving water efficiency across our facilities and operations, as well as investing in critical water restoration projects in the same watersheds where our facilities are located. Now we’re going even further and pledging to be water positive by 2030, meaning we will restore more water than we consume [evaporate].”
Like many technology companies, Facebook’s water use is substantial, primarily due to its role in cooling datacentres. Just one Facebook datacentre in Albuquerque in the US, for instance, has access to more than 0.5bn litres of water rights a year, which has caused conflict with local farms and businesses which worry that an expansion could harm their own ability to operate.
Facebook said it had already started work to reduce that load by developing new technologies for cooling and humidifying datacentres. These have increased their water efficiency by 80% “compared to the industry standard”. But the new push for water positivity will involve the company also working on water restoration projects in water-stressed areas.
The organisation said it had already invested in projects that replenish more than 850m gallons of water a year across six American states, including New Mexico, California and Utah. It plans to extend the work to cover Ireland, Singapore, India, the UK and Mexico in the future.
“Facebook’s water goal represents the leading practice for operational water targets,” said the World Resources Institute. “More companies and industries need to follow this example and set forward-looking targets to be resilient in an increasingly uncertain future.”
It comes after Facebook announced that it had successfully achieved net zero emissions in April, paving the way for it to meet a further goal of net zero emissions across its entire supply chain by 2030. That sort of ambitious target is fast becoming the norm in the sector. Apple committed to a goal of carbon neutrality for itself, its suppliers, and even the electricity used to power its products in users’ homes by 2030, while last year Microsoft pledged that it would have removed all carbon it has ever emitted by 2050.