The hidden water cost of AI products like ChatGPT

Microsoft's water consumption rose by 34 percent from 2021 to 2022 while Google reported a 20 percent increase in water in the same period

AI is an emerging technology, and large language models like ChatGPT and Bing AI are pushing the technology to thousands of users globally every single day.

However, to keep said services running, behind the scenes, they require a lot of computing resources that consume electricity, alongside water to keep the computers cool.

To create Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, OpenAI used a supercomputer in Iowa that needed a lot of water to cool down. The water came from the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers, which are vital sources of drinking water in the region.

According to Microsoft’s recent environmental report, its global water consumption rose by 34 percent from 2021 to 2022, and the increase is largely attributed to its AI research. “It’s fair to say the majority of the growth is due to AI,” including “its heavy investment in generative AI and partnership with OpenAI,” said Shaolei Ren, a researcher at the University of California, Riverside, via APNews.

Microsoft and OpenAI are not the only ones using water for AI research. Google, another leader in the field, also reported a 20 percent increase in water use from 2021 to 2022, which researchers attribute to its AI-related work.

Microsoft and OpenAI have stated that they are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and water usage, but they have not disclosed the specific details of their AI operations. Researchers have tried to estimate the water consumption of ChatGPT, finding that it uses about half a litre of water for every 5 to 50 queries.

Read the complete report here.

Source: APNews