Sanford asks for delay on Google water proposal

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Google's Berkeley County data center wants to expand but Congressman Mark Sanford is asking them to wait. Google reports they need access to more water for their growth. That addition is triple the amount of water they use today.

"They have plans to expand and, as you know, we rely heavily on technology and data centers as time goes on," South Carolina Coastal Conservation League representative Emily Cedzo said.

Google's server farm in Berkeley County requested 1.5 million gallons of water from the Middendorf aquifer every day to cool its equipment. This aquifer is an underground water supply that runs underneath the Charleston area.

Congressman Mark Sanford is concerned. He wrote a letter to Catherine Heigel, the director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, asking her to delay any approval of the Google water usage plan.

"Let's give time for more robust data, stakeholder engagement, make sure we're all in agreement so we have the strongest plan moving forward," Cedzo said.

Google reports Sanford is asking for studies done on all aquifer users and say it have already done multiple studies themselves. In the meantime, the Coastal Conservation League is saying Google is not transparent enough with its own research.

"Because we're lacking some of that complete data, we don't really have the full picture on what's going on underneath the ground," Cedzo said. Cedzo also reported Google's Georgia data center uses 100% recycled water and the center in Moncks Corner plans to continue using water from Berkeley Water and Sanitation. They will continue with Berkeley's potable water and will expand to also pump groundwater. "They tout their 100% renewable energy goal at their meeting this year but they're a bit more tight-lipped about what they're doing in regards to water conservation."

All sides agree it's imperative to maintain the aquifer.

"The importance of this aquifer is that we're using it at a sustainable rate so that we don't deplete it," Cedzo said.

Google's water usage proposal is on hold. SCDHEC reports it's one of 21 permit requests awaiting review.