Google is renewing its case for state water regulators in South Carolina to allow the company to increase its daily groundwater pumping
In Berkeley County, S.C., Google has renewed its case for state water regulators to allow the company to increase its daily groundwater pumping from 500,000 gal to 1.5 million gal to cool its data center.
However, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has made public the permit application and its backup studies. According to Post and Courier, much of the data is highly technical, and the public will have to rely on experts with DHEC’s Water Monitoring, Assessment and Protection Division to corroborate it.
Google has just celebrated its 10th year in Berkeley County and has now begun another expansion. According to Post and Courier, the expansion would have to be abandoned unless it is allowed to tap the aquifer.
Before deciding on an expansion, Google explored other options. These included using lake water, buying from utilities, using treated wastewater and capturing rain in retention ponds. However, Google said only pumping from about 1,600 ft underground met its needs based on criteria of availability, consistency, reliability and sustainability.
Recently, Berkeley County has granted Google tax breaks in connection with its expansions. According to Post and Courier, Google has proven to be a good corporate citizen, recently providing Cypress Gardens with Wi-Fi service and Chromebooks. However, any decision on granting a permit for a large groundwater withdrawal must be divorced from mutual demonstrations of goodwill.
In a May 2017 op-ed, Google told the public there was nothing to worry about. According to Post and Courier, the Middendorf aquifer dumps about 200 million gal of freshwater into the ocean every day, and drawing a 1.5 million gal daily would not be an issue.
However, close to the coast in Mount Pleasant, there is already a dent in the aquifer. This development is something hydrologists are calling a “cone of depression,” according to Post and Courier.
The Middendorf aquifer is more like a sponge of sediment and sand than a pool of water, and levels have been dropping in the vicinity of its wells for years. According to Post and Courier, that increases the likelihood of a saltwater intrusion that could permanently foul the water.
DHEC experts must evaluate Google’s request and make protecting freshwater resources their top priority, according to Post and Courier.