Cryptocurrency mining, mainly with Bitcoins and Ethereum, has always been controversial due to the energy and resource consumption required to mine the currency. However, Bitcoin has a new concern, as a recent report outlines that it uses 4,227 gallons of fresh water for every single transaction, either for buying or selling. Because of these transactions, many countries, such as the United States, could face freshwater shortages if the currency becomes more widely adopted.
This detailed report emphasizes Bitcoin's impact on worldwide water security while comparing it to Kazakhstan, which has much larger freshwater consumption and some mitigation solutions. This study was done by a data scientist at DNB and a researcher for VU Amsterdam, Alex De Vries, who stressed that its water consumption footprint has increased over the years. He also calculated that the computational process behind the Bitcoin network uses 8.6 to 35.1 billion liters of water annually in the United States or roughly one swimming pool's worth of water per transaction.
How Is the Freshwater Consumption Calculated?
The study includes both direct and indirect water footprints, both of which are from freshwater sources. These data centers consume water for cooling systems and air humidification to maintain these servers. Other sources of freshwater consumption are from its usage for electricity production required to keep these servers active. The consumption of electricity is constant, and so is the use of water.
From this observation, it is then calculated that 4,227 gallons of fresh water is used during every transaction.
In the United States, as of March 2023, there has been an annual total consumption between 93.5 to 120 Gigalitres, equivalent to the average water consumption of about 300,000 American households; most of the bitcoin mining occurs in Texas, whose consumption is 53.1 to 68.4 GL of freshwater. These consumptions are calculated from large-scale Bitcoin operations. To frame a perspective of its volume, one gigalitre (GL) is equivalent to 1,000,000,000 liters (264,172,052 gallons) or 1,000 megaliters.
The studies also observe the bitcoin mining operation in Kazakhstan, which could face a significant freshwater shortage of 997.9 GL by 2030. This is mainly because China banned Bitcoin operations, and as a consequence, many mining operations shifted there, making the country the largest hub for Bitcoin mining. However, the consumption by the United States isn't tiny, but specific solutions can be implemented to benefit the local population.
Differentiating between direct and indirect water consumption is essential as it identifies and helps implement an alternative method to save precious usable water for human, animal, and environmental consumption.
Solutions for a Growing Problem
Many pragmatic solutions can be implemented quickly, such as immersing mining servers in dielectric fluid for cooling instead of water cooling. Indirect water consumption can also be reduced if power stations switch to sources that do not use water, such as wind, solar, and thermoelectric power generators using dry cooling systems. Switching to non-fresh water sources also helps, especially in states with a coastline. While it may not address all of the freshwater consumption problems created by this operation, it can help mitigate while addressing other concerns, such as electronic waste.
The Ethereum network, in comparison, has reduced its power consumption by modifying its central ecosystem and software. However, the Bitcoin community is reluctant to make such software changes. A bill called the Crypto-Asset Environmental Transparency Act would force crypto mining operations and such data centers to disclose emissions mandatorily, giving more water usage data. This implementation isn't exclusive to cryptocurrency, and Meta announces its water footprint, providing a blueprint of how its impact can be calculated and made to be declared. While most Bitcoin mining happens outside the US, this will act as a framework for other countries should they be willing to implement it accordingly.
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Seems someone that dislikes bitcoin wants to write another study of why it is bad. This is really just a variation of the bitcoin wastes electricity argument. The miner machines themselves do not directly use water almost all the so called usages is related to evaporation that happens during the power generation.Reply
You really could write a study for any computer related activity you disagree with. Look at how much power youtube or tik tok uses all for the greedy advertisers to make their money. You could easily come up with a chart that shows how much water was used per ad shown.
I do not use crypto but it irritates me when people try to use environment as a argument against anything they disagree with.
I wonder how much water is wasted by certain authors at certain universities in Amsterdam writing article after article about why bitcoin is bad.
How dare you...Reply
Some data centers use evaporative cooling, which does indeed remove water from the local watershed. They do this because it's more efficient (i.e. reduces electricity costs), hence I'd expect some large-scale bitcoin miners to do the same.bill001g said:The miner machines themselves do not directly use water almost all the so called usages is related to evaporation that happens during the power generation.
Sure, but the amount depends greatly on the computation involved, which is much less for ads. Serving up a website ad probably takes millijoules, if that.bill001g said:You really could write a study for any computer related activity you disagree with. Look at how much power youtube or tik tok uses all for the greedy advertisers to make their money. You could easily come up with a chart that shows how much water was used per ad shown.
What evidence do you see that they're merely using water consumption as an excuse to slam bitcoin?bill001g said:I do not use crypto but it irritates me when people try to use environment as a argument against anything they disagree with.
We should consider the possibility that they're indeed concerned primarily with water conservation. Some people do worry about that, because water scarcity is a real problem and groundwater is finite resource that's being rapidly depleted in many arid regions.
It seems some of the paper's authors also have critiques of the resource consumption of AI and the Metaverse:
So, it doesn't seem to me they're just singling out crypto.
They should do another report that shows how much water/electricity/cobalt/coal was used to write this report.Reply
I mined crypto for four years and never used a single drop of water.Reply
I don't want to dismiss this article outright, but it seems to freely conflate mining with transactions, consumption with usage, and large-scale operations with any other setup equivalence.Reply
That aside, the figures aren't particularly useful without some baseline comparisons to typical water usage in other server farms to know if that's a lot, a little, or just average. How much water is "consumed" by YouTube, Facebook, X/Twitter, Google, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, ICBC, the global banking system collectively, the Pentagon, etc.?
Finally, why the focus on Bitcoin? The article states it's a particular concern without stating the difference in water usage against other cryptocurrencies that makes it so. After the next halving event (predicted to occur in April 2014) will there even be a single system anywhere in the world still dedicated to Bitcoin mining ? Won't a large portion of the Bitcoin water usage issue simply evaporate when that happens?
While it does mention changes to Ethereum, it fails to state what the actual water usage reduction was; something which would be particularly insightful since Ethereum can no longer be mined thus the water usage would be strictly transactional. The article suggests other cryptocurrencies should adopt similar methods but fails to point out that ending mining entirely in order to adopt a system where the largest stakeholders gain shares faster isn't a practical consideration for less mature cryptocurrencies even if one overlooks the obvious fairness issue that introduces.
I found the sensitive cryptobros. Just read the the three comments before mine.Reply
Servers burn water into hydrogen and oxygen?Reply
Rather silly that this red flag is thrown about "wasting" water while mining and yet so many people think transitioning off to electric vehicles on this same power grid is only going to save the planet...Reply
money is made out of paper lolReply