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NSA Will Use Wastewater To Protect Us From Thugs

A lot of snickering has been going around the Internets for the last few days over a new National Security Agency computing center under construction at Fort Meade, Maryland, which has just inked a deal to use treated wastewater from a nearby treatment plant as a coolant. Yeah, that’s your sewage. But enough with the potty jokes, this is serious business.

Aside from protecting America from “cyber terrorists, spies, and thugs,” the wastewater reclamation project will enable the construction of a huge new 600,000 square foot water-sucking facility without sucking new water from a local aquifer that is already under stress.

NSA cooling new data center with wastewater

Headquarters of NSA (cropped), courtesy of Fort Meade.

US Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) attended the groundbreaking for the new NSA computing center last May, called High Performance Computing Center-2. She had this to say:

Maryland is the global epicenter of cybersecurity, leading the way in finding cyber-tech solutions that make our country safer, and creating cyber-warrior jobs that make our economy stronger. Because of Maryland’s incredible federal assets, like the NSA, our dynamic private sector, and iconic academic institutions, America’s cyber defense starts in Maryland. With this new state-of-the-art computing center, Maryland and the NSA will continue to protect America from cyber terrorists, spies, and thugs.

I know, right? Cricket chirps when it comes to water resources conservation, so let’s break it down for you.

When we say Computer Center-2 is a water sucker, we mean it. According to a good rundown of the NSA project in the Baltimore Sun, when the new facility is completed in 2016 it will take up to 5 million gallons per day (yes, per day) of wastewater from a Howard County facility.

The up-front investment is also significant, involving $40 million for a new pumping station along with a payment of up to $2 million yearly for the wastewater. However, the according to officials cited by the Sun, purchasing tap water or digging wells would have involved a far greater expense.


Plus, NSA wouldn’t get to brag about the LEED Silver certification that it expects to achieve for Computing Center-2, which will be based partly on the wastewater reclamation project.

Who Gets The Last Laugh On Wastewater And Data Centers

NSA has plenty of company on the green data center bandwagon. All the big boys have been going at it hammer and tongs: Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, Google, and more.

As for wastewater, the NSA project seems to be modeled on a Google wastewater cooling system for its data center in Georgia, which has been humming along quite nicely for the past couple of years.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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