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Apple pledges nearly $9M to help Oregon town store water

December 19, 2018
FILE--This July 1, 2016, file photo shows downtown Prineville, Ore. Apple will spend nearly $9 million to help the city of Prineville, Oregon build an underground water storage facility. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, file)

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (AP) — Apple has pledged to spend nearly $9 million to help the city of Prineville, Oregon, build an underground water storage facility to help meet the demands of the company’s two data storage centers there.

Apple is Prineville’s largest water user and takes huge volumes of water to cool their facilities, where computers are in constant danger of overheating, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Wednesday.

It’s Apple’s second water conservation project in Prineville.

Its first data center consumed 27 million gallons of water in 2016, based on the most recent data available, and the company has added a second large facility since then.

Prineville, with just over 10,000 residents, produces 600 million gallons annually. City officials could not say Wednesday how much water Apple used last year, but suggested it could be approaching 10 percent of Prineville’s total production.

The project will collect water in natural underground geologic formations during cool periods and when river levels are high and then tap into it when needed. It will serve both Apple data centers and Prineville’s general needs.

Lisa Jackson, the Apple vice president who runs the company’s environmental initiatives, said the Prineville project will support the company’s own needs “while increasing the availability of clean, sustainable water as the community prepares for the impacts of climate change.”

Prineville currently gets all its water from deep wells; this project will bring water up from shallow wells, too, storing them in an aquifer near Apple’s data center when demand is low and tapping them when demand rises in the summer heat.

The new aquifers will be available beginning in 2021. Prineville said it has been studying the project for five years and believes it could store as much as 180 million gallons initially, and up to 400 million gallons with additional wells.

In 2016, Apple financed construction of a water treatment facility designed to save 5 million gallons annually by recycling water from the city’s sewage treatment system and using it in the data center.

Apple has spent $1 billion building its 660,000-square-foot (61,315.5-square meter) Prineville facilities and is in the process of expanding by 50 percent. Its data centers employ 100 people altogether, according to Apple, which has said it offsets the effects of its power use with nearby solar and wind projects.

Facebook has a large complex of data centers just up the road. It draws water from wells separate from the city’s water system.

Both companies chose Prineville because of low land costs and cool desert night air to chill the data centers’ computers.

Apple and Facebook also have agreements with the city that exempt them from most local property taxes.

Crook County records show those tax breaks saved Apple $16.4 million last year and $9 million the year before.

Those tax breaks are mitigated to some degree by franchise fees generated by the data centers’ electricity use, which provide $2 million annually for Prineville’s general fund, accounting for about 4 percent of the city’s budget.

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com

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