Microsoft increased its water consumption by 34% from 2021 to 2022, to more than 6.4 billion liters. This is attributed to research in the field of artificial intelligence, according to AP.
“It’s safe to say that most of this growth is due to AI,” in particular, “the big investments in generative AI and the partnership with OpenAI.” This opinion is shared by Shaolei Ren, a researcher at the University of California.
The thing is that large language models like ChatGPT require significant computing power and generate a lot of heat. Therefore, data centers need to pump water to keep them cool and maintain optimal operating temperatures.
Shaolei Ren’s team estimates that ChatGPT absorbs 500 milliliters of water when a user asks the chatbot a series of 5 to 50 questions or commands. This range depends on the location of the servers and the time of year.
“Most people are not aware of the resource usage underlying ChatGPT,” Ren said. “If you’re not aware of the resource usage, then there’s no way that we can help conserve the resources.
The AP also notes that the OpenAI technology, which is supported by Microsoft, was developed using resources from a river watershed in central Iowa. The water was needed to cool the powerful computer. For its part, Microsoft said it is investing in research to measure the energy and carbon footprint of AI.