Artificial Intelligence Development Needs a Lot of Water

According to researchers, the processes involved in developing artificial intelligence (AI) systems need a lot of water. People are therefore pleading with AI engineers to use less water and to be more conscious of the resources they consume in the environment. The American startup OpenAI, which introduced the ChatGPT AI tool, recently shared information about its water usage with the Associated Press. ChatGPT is a type of “chatbot” that can write at a high level and communicate with people in a natural way. These techniques are also referred to as “large language models” or “generative AI.” Large language models are developed and trained using techniques that demand powerful computer systems. Both heat and electricity are produced in large quantities during this process.


Microsoft, a manufacturer of software, supports Open AI, which runs a number of data centers in West Des Moines, Iowa. About 68,000 people live in the city in the state’s center. When Microsoft first moved into the city, Steve Gaer, the mayor at the time, observed, “They’re building them as fast as they can.” He claimed that the city’s efforts to enhance public projects drew the software developer to the area. The former official added that Microsoft contributed a substantial sum of tax revenue to help with the endeavors. Gaer remarked, “But they were pretty secretive about what they’re doing out there.”


Microsoft said in 2020 that it was building one of the strongest supercomputers in the world specifically for OpenAI. It did not identify the Iowa city as the project’s location at the time. To support AI workloads, Microsoft referred to the project as a “single system” with a massive number of semiconductors and processors. Microsoft President Brad Smith first addressed the public in late May regarding the company’s new “AI supercomputing data center” located in West Des Moines. He mentioned that the center was constructed to aid with ChatGPT system development. According to the AP, water is drawn from the adjacent Raccoon and Des Moines rivers to cool the Microsoft-OpenAI processing hardware. Shaolei Ren stated, “It’s fair to say the majority of the growth is due to AI.” He has been researching the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, like ChatGPT, on the environment at the University of California, Riverside.


Ren’s team estimates that ChatGPT uses 500 milliliters of water every time a user asks the tool a series of five to fifty queries in a paper that will be published later this year. Indirect usage, which businesses typically do not track, is also included in the estimate. This includes the water used to cool the power plants that generate the electricity for the data centers.

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