A community organization says that the Village of Los Lunas needs to delay a vote into a huge Facebook data center expansion, over water concerns in New Mexico, US.
The Valencia Water Watchers group claim that the village in Valencia County has failed to be transparent about how much water will be used by the facility, and that it's not clear what impact the New Mexico expansion will have on reserves.
No water for farming
“I’ve had one or two [water] cuts a year. I’ve lost a lot of money… we don’t have enough water. Facebook does not need more water," a local farmer said at a virtual public meeting attended by 50 concerned citizens, KRQE reports. "We as farmers need more water."
More than 200 have signed a petition calling for a delay to a vote on whether the village should provide generous tax breaks to Facebook and greenlight the $800m project.
"Too many unanswered questions. Too many unheard concerns. And this is premature,” K.A. McCord, Valencia County resident and Valencia Water Watchers member said.
Update: Facebook told DCD in a statement that it "prioritizes water stewardship and we have worked to make sure our data centers are as efficient as possible. Today, our data centers use 80 percent less water than the average. In New Mexico, by partnering with environmental non-profits to address local water challenges, Facebook helps restore more water annually in the Rio Grande watershed than is consumed by the Los Lunas Data Center. In 2020 alone, we estimate the projects we sponsored restored about 64 million gallons of water in New Mexico."
In 2020, its water withdrawals for the region amounted to 59 million gallons. "We estimate the water use of an expansion would be similar to our existing campus," a Facebook spokesperson said. "It is important to note that the project is not requesting any additional water rights allocations."
Last month, the Southwest Organizing Project separately protested a proposal to expand the Niagara Bottling plant, increasing consumption from 92 million gallons of water each year to 211.
Los Lunas and the wider Valencia County have struggled to meet water demand. In 2020, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board cut short the year’s irrigation season due to water supply concerns. That decision came even though Colorado and Texas gave New Mexico permission to use more than 11 billion gallons of water stored in El Vado Reservoir under the Rio Grande Compact. That water debt is now being repaid.
Unusually long and dry summers have exacerbated issues, putting further pressures on both supply and demand.