Along the banks of the Columbia River lies Umatilla, Oregon, a small farming community where agriculture has been at the heart of the local economy and day-to-day life for more than 150 years. It is also home to the data centers that power Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers’ applications. Recycled water from these data centers irrigates hundreds of acres of land in the local area, helping farmers grow crops like corn, soybean, and wheat.

“Besides the land we own, water is one of our greatest assets.”
Vern Fredrickson, local farmer and vice chairman of the Board of Directors for the West Extension Irrigation District

That’s because five years ago, AWS and Umatilla community leaders worked together to develop a sustainable solution to recycle the water used to cool AWS data centers. The plan led to local municipalities and AWS investing in miles of new pipeline to deliver the water to existing canals, allowing 96% of all spent cooling water from AWS data centers to be reused in nearby communities. The plan also better managed the flow and availability of water for farming in the region and provided a new source of water for local farmers and residents. It marks the first time AWS has sent cooling water directly to an irrigation canal globally.

“Besides the land we own, water is one of our greatest assets. Every gallon is important to the community, especially for farmers like me,” said Vern Fredrickson, a local farmer and vice chairman of the Board of Directors for the West Extension Irrigation District. “We’re glad to see businesses like AWS working with local officials to send water back to the community.”

An illustrated image that says "How AWS recycles data center cooling water for irrigation."
An image that says "AWS and community leaders meet to ensure water is sustainably used by data centers."
An illustrated image that says "The water's journey begins with a 'point of diversion' in the river, where a carefully managed pipeline helps to avoid negative impacts on fish and wildlife."
An illustrated image that says "River water is pumped into a treatment facility designed by Amazon engineers, which removes suspended solids and produces clean, non-potable water.
An illustrated image that says "The data center uses the water to keep equipment cool, reusing the same water up to four times."
An illustrated image that says "Using AWS IoT Core services, data center operators conduct real-time water quality testing to monitor spent water that's being sent to local canals."
An illustrated image that says "Using AWS IoT Core services, data center operators conduct real-time water quality testing to monitor spent water that's being sent to local canals."
An illustrated image that says "The water travels through canals to farmers and ranchers who use the water to irrigate crops and livestock fields in Umatilla and Morrow counties."
An illustrated image that says "By repurposing spent cooling water, AWS and local municipalities deliver millions of gallons of water to farming operations that would otherwise be unavailable for reuse in the region."

To ensure water quality is maintained in the reuse system throughout the irrigation season, AWS installed water quality sensors, AWS Internet of Things (IoT) gateways that transmit data from the sensors back to the cloud, and AWS IoT Core cloud services that capture the data for analysis and automated alarming. These IoT services provide both AWS and the surrounding communities with peace of mind that water quality is maintained and always suitable for irrigation. The water reuse system makes millions of gallons of water each year available for the first time to farmers and residents in Umatilla and Morrow counties.

“We wanted to partner with a good water steward like AWS to help develop a more sustainable approach to how we manage and maintain our water sources,” said Dave Stockdale, city manager for Umatilla. “Alongside the growth in jobs and opportunities from AWS operating here, we wanted to ensure that there were no negative effects on our long-standing history of agriculture.”

AWS Helped this City Develop Sustainable Water Practices | Amazon News

“The water we use is critical for cooling our data center servers, and although we use less than 1% of the freshwater in the region, we remain focused on minimizing our impact. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the City of Umatilla and the Port of Morrow to be good water stewards in this community,” says Beau Schilz, Americas AWS Water Team. “We’ve built the infrastructure that allows us to give back millions of gallons of water annually to this community, and now we will build on this success in more places we operate around the world.”

The innovative solution provides AWS a model to build on as it expands its sustainability-focused infrastructure to support AWS customers. Learn more about how AWS strives to have a positive impact on water supply in the geographic regions where we operate.