Datacenters will be integrated into the sanitation infrastructure

Sheila Zabeu -

April 01, 2022

In Korea! Wastewater specialist Tomorrow Water has signed a memorandum of understanding with Samsung and two other Korean companies – Dohwa Engineering and BNZ Partners – to develop data centers, integrated with sanitation infrastructure that can help improve the quality of life and protect the environment.

The Co-Flow solution will integrate wastewater treatment facilities and datacenters on a single site, connecting energy and fluid flows aimed at improving the sustainability and economic rates of the two environments.

An innovative water-cooled concept will result in compact dimensions, reduced potable water use, and lower energy costs, thus creating a highly sustainable solution for datacenters, especially in areas with water scarcity. Furthermore, Tomorrow Water’s innovative technologies allow datacenters to be built on top of underground waste water treatment areas, also reducing the impacts associated with land use.

Co-Flow was developed as part of the wider Tomorrow Water Project, which aims to interconnect infrastructure elements such as datacenters, wastewater treatment systems, renewable energy sources in order to capitalize on complementary resources of energy, heat, nutrients, inputs, and water products to make the whole more sustainable and affordable.

Challenges of data centre deployment

The growing demand for datacenters to accommodate a variety of workloads is posing challenges in many regions of the world in terms of space, energy, and natural resources such as water and land, both during construction and operation. Suitable sites must be available that can provide stabilized power, comply with environmental regulations, attract labor and ensure infrastructure security. After the implementation stage, it is necessary to ensure operational sustainability.

In Tomorrow Water’s vision, wastewater treatment plants, usually located in city centers, are a great solution to the problem of lack of space. The Tomorrow Water project involves the joint use of land from wastewater treatment plants, biogas plants, and data centers, and the application of Artificial Intelligence to increase process efficiency in this value chain.

At the heart of the Tomorrow Water concept is the exchange and reuse of wastewater and heat between the wastewater plants and the data centres. The hot air diverted from the data centres goes to biological treatment and/or sludge drying systems at the plants. Conversely, the cold water treated by the plants is used to cool the data centres. Tomorrow Water has applied for a patent for this idea.

“The concept of building wastewater treatment plants next to datacenters is expected to be an interesting alternative for large cities in the United States that are experiencing budget reductions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is very likely that large financial institutions and developers will work together as public-private partnership projects to improve wastewater treatment infrastructure as well as to acquire the necessary space for datacenters,” says Kim Dong-woo, CEO of Tomorrow Water.

Another expectation of the executive is that this combination of sanitation stations and data centres has the potential to revitalize local government economies and labour markets. For example, the United States is competing fiercely to attract data centres by offering tax breaks, funding and R&D support. Data centres have traditionally been built in large cities due to economic and infrastructure demands.

In January, Tomorrow Water signed an agreement with design consultancy Arcadis to develop plans to build data centres over wastewater treatment plants. Arcadis plans to collaborate on possible projects in the United States.