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Oregon City Drops Fight To Keep Google Water Use Private

Saturday December 17, 2022. 01:02 AM , from Slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Associated Press: Residents of The Dalles, Oregon, are learning how much of their water Google's data centers have been using to cool the computers inside the cavernous buildings -- information that previously was deemed a trade secret. A lawsuit by the city on behalf of Google -- against Oregon's biggest newspaper, The Oregonian/OregonLive -- that sought to keep the water-use information confidential was dropped, the newspaper reported Thursday. City officials abandoned the 13-month legal fight and committed to release the company's water consumption in future years.

In an email, Google confirmed Thursday that its water use numbers would no longer be a trade secret. 'It is one example of the importance of transparency, which we are aiming to increase... which includes site-level water usage numbers for all our U.S. data center sites, including The Dalles,' Google spokesperson Devon Smiley said. Google says (PDF) its data centers in the Oregon town consumed 274.5 million gallons (1 billion liters) of water last year. In a Nov. 21 blog posting, Google said that all of its global data centers consumed approximately 4.3 billion gallons (16.3 billion liters) of water in 2021, which it said is comparable to the water needed to irrigate and maintain 29 golf courses in the southwest U.S. each year. The Dalles Mayor Richard Mays said Google had previously insisted its water usage was a trade secret because the company was concerned about competitors knowing how it cools its servers, but then changed its position and agreed to release the water records. 'That's why we backed off (the lawsuit),' Mays told The Oregonian/OregonLive.

The Oregonian/OregonLive, which had requested Google's records last year, said the case represents a major test of Oregon public records law. 'This seemed to be a perfect example of a clash of two important storylines, both the expansion of big businesses and the public resource that they need to use,' Therese Bottomly, editor of The Oregonian/OregonLive, was quoted as saying.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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