Corporate water users are looking to underpin their business and sustainability strategies with real-time data and analysis in water risk management and new partnerships and collaborations are expected to emerge to accommodate this change. One of the first is a pairing between global technology company Microsoft and water management specialist Ecolab.

In an interview with Jim Hanna, Director of Datacenter Sustainability for Microsoft and Emilio Tenuta, Vice President for Corporate Sustainability, Ecolab, BlueTech Research Chief Executive Paul O’Callaghan finds out more.

Collaboration between companies providing IT and water management services can deliver major benefits in corporate water sustainability.

Emilio Tenuta, Ecolab’s Vice President of Corporate Sustainability, explains how their relationship with Microsoft came about, saying: “We’ve been a customer of Microsoft for some time, as users of their CRM [customer relationship management] platform and they’ve also been a customer of ours. We’ve been working in their data centres from a water management perspective.”

Jim Hanna, Director of Datacenter Sustainability for Microsoft says: “The partnership with Ecolab means we can leverage our understanding of these types of large-scale partnerships along with the technology and make it happen.

“Microsoft plans to be part of that conversation in the long-term. But for me, it’s also about creating a virtuous cycle of improvement in the cloud, powered by the cloud. That means using these cloud-enabled insights to drive new efficiencies within our data centres.”

One visible outcome of the Microsoft-Ecolab partnership is the Water Risk Monetizer, industry’s first publicly available financial modeling tool, which enables businesses to factor current and future water risks into decision-making and was developed by Ecolab in partnership with Microsoft and Trucost.

Jim Hanna says: “Research suggests that half of the world’s population will be dealing with water stress conditions, where demand for water exceeds supply, by 2030. Clearly, these are unprecedented times and in unprecedented times, you need unconventional partnerships.”

Emilio Tenuta explains further, “One of the things that we’ve been working with Microsoft on is risk related to water at different sites around the world.

“For any company, the first step is to assess the monetised risk in order to identify and prioritise where to implement water strategies. The second part is understanding how water is being utilised in those hot spots. Finally, once a company understands where these opportunities for solutions and expertise are, they can begin to manage water differently.”

Ecolab and Microsoft have worked closely together to address water challenges at Microsoft’s data centre in the US city of San Antonio.

“Obviously Texas has been facing its share of water stress,” says Tenuta, “so at the San Antonio data centre we were looking to better understand the amount of fresh water that was used for the critical cooling system to cool the servers. We wanted to optimise that fresh water use.”

Jim Hanna and Emilio Tenuta co-presented a keynote address at BlueTech Forum on 7 June.