On May 11 2017 regulators in South Carolina
unanimously approved Google’s request to triple
their daily groundwater withdrawal permit
from 500,000 gallons to 1.5 million.
This controversial permit comes at times when
the aquifer under counties surrounding Charleston
began to experience sever drops of water levels
and water pressure.
Google wants to use this precious source of
fresh water that’s used by locals for farming
and daily needs, to cool its large data center
in Goose Creek in Berkeley County.
Google ignored the concerns of residents and
local water utilities officials, that no further
permits should be considered until groundwater
pressure and water levels begin to recover.
The problem with this aquifer is that there
is not enough data to fully understand and
interpret recent downward trends.
What gives companies like Google a leverage
to ask for more permits, is the uncertainty
of attribution of these trends – whether
they are caused due to droughts, pumping,
or a combination of both.
Aquifers are natural underground resources
of fresh water, that act as sponge capturing
the raining water beneath the soil instead
of releasing it into the ocean or evaporation.
In order for an aquifer to sustain itself,
it has to at least reach the equilibrium between
the amounts of recharged and discharged water.
Aquifers are only renewable as long as rate
of recharge and discharge equalize over time.
However, several observations have been already
made that suggest the critical level of the
The groundwater levels in the Charleston aquifer
have declined from 126 feet above land surface
prior to pumpage, to 40 to 60 feet below land
surface in 2015.
Another proof of declining water levels is
that many well sites are losing pressure and
had to devote more resources to increase the
power of their pumps, or dig deeper to regain
the water pressure.
For example, 6 wells of Mount Pleasant Waterworks
are now pumping at 400 feet below land surface,
which significantly increases the costs for
electricity needed to lift water from these
To respond to the alarming state, South Carolina
Department of Health and Environmental Control
has designated Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester
Counties as Capacity Use Area.
In a Capacity Use Area, each groundwater withdrawal
exceeding 3 million gallons per month is requested
to be reported to and gain permission from
the South Carolina Department.
Permitting expansion of groundwater withdrawal
by Google poses a threat to many residents
fearing that they will be limited to increase
their pumpage to support their daily needs
in the future.
While trends show that Carolina aquifers clearly
responded accordingly to multi-year droughts
of 1998 – 2002 and 2007 – 2008, it has
been observed that where users transitioned
from ground water to surface water, water
levels in those aquifers began to see recovering
Wells that had experienced these droughts
but have not recovered are the ones where
pumping continued increasing.
The three-fold increase of groundwater withdrawal
by Google will inflict an exponential stress
on the aquifers in Coastal South Carolina.
Even if the groundwater in the aquifer prove
to be able to sustain excessive withdrawals,
ever declining water levels will put costly
barriers to entry for small and middle size
This will essentially transfer ownership of
South Carolina water to the ever enclosing
circle of elites, because ordinary people
will not have enough financial means to tap
into the water resource that used to be publicly
available on free-to-all basis.
To estimate how much groundwater there is
in Carolina aquifers, a study by the US Geological
Survey and the South Carolina Department of
Natural Resources was set to be completed
A date for which Google refused to wait despite
calls by the local community around Charleston
to not allow further permits until ground
water levels begin to rise again or sufficient
studies are completed.
The talks for regulations were being delayed
for 15 years, and have been coincidently closed
within three months at nearly the same time
as Google permit came to be okayed in May.
And while Google’s public relations staff
vehemently claims they want to collaborate
with the community, they refuse to disclose
any details on how much fresh water they collect
in South Carolina, and how they treat it during
and after use under trade secrecy.
What Google did confirm however, is that they
are never going to return the water back to
the aquifer, but dump it into the sewers.
Google will reuse some groundwater, but it
will still inquire losses due to evaporation.
No used water will be processed to be returned
to recharge the aquifer.
Another issue with this controversial permit,
is that Google already uses 4 million gallons
of tap water a day to cool its Goose Creek
data center in Berkley County.
With increasing average temperature in the
region and potentially more frequent and sever
future droughts, diminishing surface water
resources might lead Google to expand its
permit to make up for the losses should the
supply of tap water drop.
This is a likely scenario if no regulations
are implemented in the mean time to protect
the groundwater so that it continues to serve
the needs of general users and farmers and
not just single conglomerates.
Google refuses to accept their withdrawals
have any substantial impact on the sustainability
of the aquifer.
The company also declared that the aquifer
is the most readily available source of cooling
and that no other alternatives are viable.
But the real reason Google went for South
Carolina in the first place is the low cost
of electricity in the region and virtually
no price tag and regulations for tapping into
You see data centers spend staggering amounts
Just in the US, data centers consume as much
electricity as produced by roughly 10 nuclear
What’s most controversial about this is
that more than 90% of this energy is not used
to power computation.
On average only 6 to 12 percent of the electricity
coming to data centers is used.
The rest is being dumped as waste simple because
most of the processors are idle majority of
The wastefulness of the data center industry
is so severe that its 76 billion kilowatt-hours
energy input from the grid in 2010 outperformed
paper industry by nearly 10 billion kilowatt-hours.
It was the computer technology that was supposed
to be a “green” alternative to paper.
This is because data centers of these reckless
companies are not designed to conserve the
energy as long as they don’t have the incentives
to do so.
In addition to wasting vast majority of electricity
flow from the grid, data centers also use
banks of diesel generators and thousands of
lead-acid batteries to insure against grid
However, most of this energy is not needed
and is therefore wasted, because data centers
hold redundant data on their hard drives,
even if they are no longer in use by consumers.
More than 75% of trillions of gigabytes of
data are being created by ordinary consumers.
This number is estimated to be even much higher
for Google, because the company’s business
model relies on generating and collecting
users private information to be shared and
sold for marketing purposes.
You need to realize that Google is no longer
a technology start up and they are not making
revenue from selling products that have a
Google has transformed itself into an advertising
platform that offers marketers and retailers
auctions to place their bids for people’s
private and personal information.
Similar to stock exchange and trading strategies
of the Wall Street banks, Google engages in
high-frequency-trading to always find the
highest bidder willing to pay the most for
invading your privacy.
And thus Google participates in depleting
fresh water resources that could have been
used by ordinary citizens for drinking, or
farmers to grow food, only to deliver targeted
advertisements and politically biased search
Google’s Goose Creek data center emits 1,350
tons per year of particulate matter, sulfur
dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other pollutants.
There are however viable alternatives for
For example, the National Security Agency
Fort Meade data center in Maryland uses wastewater
The National Energy Research Scientific Computing
Center at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
in California, runs at roughly 96% utilization
by queuing up large jobs and scheduling them
so that the machines are running nearly full-out,
24 hours a day.
There are also various methods to considerably
shrink data center foot print, and thus decrease
the amount of energy and water needed to maintain
Google doesn’t do this in Coastal South
Carolina, because it doesn’t have to think
about the consequences and outrage of the
No major nation wide media or news outlets
are covering these local controversies, so
Google is under no public pressure to alter
Roughly 90% of Google’s revenue comes from
Most of which is generated through their search
engine and Google Adwords and Adsense programs.
If you want Google to feel the pressure, and
stop them from making profit off of your private
life to fund their reckless business strategies,
you can start using search engine alternatives
like DuckDuckGo, Qwant, or Startpage, and
install uBlock Origin on your browser of choice
to block Google’s ads and trackers.
Great alternatives to Chrome browser that
will not share your data with Google are Firefox,
IceCat, and Brave Browser.
If you are using gmail, you can switch to
private encrypted email providers like Protonmail,
Tutanota, or Posteo, who will never share
your data with advertisers or government spies.
I talk about all these alternatives and other
essential methods how you can stop Google
along with other corporate monopolies like
Facebook or Amazon from making you part of
their unsustainable business model.
Google keeps stepping over the line with their
privacy violating algorithms, unconstitutional
collaboration with government spies around
the world to help them build mass surveillance,
constant tweaks to their search engine algorithms
to filter web content, and political censorship
of dissenting opinions.
Now they are going to drain precious sources
of fresh water in a century during which water
is bound to become the scarcest commodity
My only question is – is Google now too
big to fail?
Can they do whatever they want and they will
be given a pass?
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share this video with your friends and comment
below whether some kind of action needs to
be taken to put Google in check.
If you are from South Carolina, or other areas
where Google drains fresh water resources,
please do leave your thoughts in the comment
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