Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bard come at a cost and Microsft’s water consumption surged by thousands of gallons from 2021 to 2022, which is a steep increase of 34 per cent. According to the latest environment report shared by the software giant, the company revealed that its water consumption jumped to almost 1.7 billion gallons which has been linked to the company’s AI research. Generative AI like Bard and ChatGPT consume a lot of water. For example, about half a litre of water for every five prompts they get. It is also known that AI also consumes a lot of electricity.
According to Shaolei Ren, a researcher at the University of California, Riverside who has been trying to calculate the environmental impact of generative AI products such as ChatGPT and Bard, “It’s fair to say the majority of the growth is due to AI, including its heavy investment in generative AI and partnership with OpenAI.”
“Most people are not aware of the resource usage underlying ChatGPT,” Ren was quoted as saying by news agency Associated Press.
“If you’re not aware of the resource usage, then there’s no way that we can help conserve the resources.”
Microsoft also told AP in a statement this week that it is investing in research to measure AI’s energy and carbon footprint “while working on ways to make large systems more efficient, in both training and application.”
The increased water consumption is due to the cooling down process of the supercomputers that generate heat after using heavy electricity that is used for analysing and computing human-written text given to these large language models such as Bard and ChatGPT. The data centres have to pump in in water to a cooling tower outside the warehouse-sized buildings. Reports suggest that ChatGPT creator OpenAI and Microsoft have both consumed large amounts of water from Iowa’s Raccoon and Des Moines river watersheds to cool their supercomputers.