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Published on May 14, 2024
Georgia's Tech Boom Puts Strain on Water Resources, Sparking Environmental ConcernsSource: Wikipedia/US Army Corps of Engineers, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Georgia's relentless drive for technological expansion is now coming under scrutiny for its thirsty data centers, according to a recent environmental report. The Georgia Water Coalition's annual "Dirty Dozen" list calls attention to the state's biggest environmental threats, emphasizing the strain that surging economic growth, especially in the tech sector, is placing on natural water sources.

As reported by the Georgia Recorder, the coalition's 2024 report zeroes in on a boom in data center construction. These facilities, pivotal for storing our vast amounts of online data and powering artificial intelligence, are criticized for their heavy drain on Georgia's electric grid and their large-scale water consumption, necessary to cool their always-on equipment. In a potentially controversial move, state regulators last month green-lighted Georgia Power's plan to boost capacity with more fossil fuels and renewables - a decision reportedly largely driven by the needs of these data centers.

The economic boom, regularly heralded by state officials, isn't without its pitfalls, the report suggests. "Proudly, Georgia touts itself as the No. 1 state to do business, but that success in economic development is not without its consequences," states the report, cautioning that woefully unprepared growth strategies and lax law enforcement on water resource protection could spell trouble for the fundamental resources the populace needs, as reported by WABE.

Moreover, recent infrastructural changes, such as the 2022 expansion of the Savannah Harbor, which now accommodates larger ships, have left the coastal region grappling with freshwater supply issues. According to WABE, the Georgia Water Coalition's report points to the burgeoning threat to both surface and groundwater, highlighting the Floridan Aquifer and Abercorn Creek, which serve hundreds of thousands of residents. The solution? "Coordinated and enforceable water planning is sorely needed for the region," the report said.

Environmentalists are also keeping a close watch on Okefenokee Swamp and the pending state decision on a proposed titanium mine by Twin Pines, positioned alarmingly close to this prime natural wonder. This ongoing concern cements the report's trend of raising the alarm on delicate ecosystems at risk - a theme echoing throughout the past years.