Wednesday, September 27, 2023
HomeTechnologyThe Groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence Technology Powering ChatGPT was Developed in Iowa, Featuring...

The Groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence Technology Powering ChatGPT was Developed in Iowa, Featuring Abundant Water Resources

Artificial Intelligence Technology Behind ChatGPT Was Built in Iowa — With a Lot of Water

As the demand for artificial intelligence (AI) tools continues to rise, leading tech developers such as Microsoft, OpenAI, and Google are facing significant challenges and costs. One of the crucial resources required for developing AI technology is water, and this has become especially evident in the case of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. OpenAI, with the support of Microsoft, used water from the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers in central Iowa to cool their powerful supercomputer, which played a vital role in teaching its AI systems how to mimic human writing.

Water Consumption and Environmental Impact

Building a large language model like ChatGPT involves analyzing patterns in vast amounts of human-written text, which requires substantial computing power. This process consumes a significant amount of electricity and generates a substantial amount of heat, necessitating the use of water for cooling. However, the exact details of water consumption and environmental impact have been largely kept under wraps by these tech giants.

Microsoft recently disclosed in its environmental report that its global water consumption surged by 34% from 2021 to 2022, reaching nearly 1.7 billion gallons. Researchers attribute this sharp increase to Microsoft’s extensive investment in AI research, including its partnership with OpenAI. It is crucial to note that the majority of this growth is due to the demands of AI technology. Similarly, Google experienced a 20% increase in water usage during the same period, primarily driven by its AI work.

In a forthcoming paper, researcher Shaolei Ren’s team estimates that ChatGPT consumes around 500 milliliters of water for each series of 5 to 50 prompts or questions. The estimate considers both direct water usage and indirect water usage, such as cooling power plants that supply electricity to the data centers. This level of resource consumption is often overlooked by the general public, which hampers efforts to conserve resources.

The Unveiling of Iowa’s Role in AI Development

Iowa recently emerged as a significant birthplace for OpenAI’s most advanced large language model, GPT-4. This fact remained mostly unknown until a senior Microsoft executive disclosed it in a speech, stating that Iowa played a vital role in developing the technology. Researcher Ren’s paper reinforces the understanding that the AI race is reliant on not only costly semiconductors but also water resources.

OpenAI and Microsoft’s partnership has led to Iowa being chosen as the location for data centers that power their collaborative AI endeavors. Data centers are responsible for a substantial amount of water consumption, and Iowa’s Raccoon and Des Moines rivers have been tapped to meet this demand. While the exact water usage from these AI-related activities in Iowa is yet to be revealed, it is clear that it has had a significant impact on the region’s water resources.

Commitment to Sustainability and Efficiency

In response to the environmental concerns surrounding their AI research, Microsoft and OpenAI have both expressed their dedication to measuring and reducing their energy and water consumption. Microsoft emphasized its investments in research to assess AI’s impact, while also striving for more efficient systems during training and application. They are also committed to using clean energy, purchasing renewable energy, and working towards their sustainability goals of being carbon negative, water positive, and zero waste by 2030.

OpenAI echoed these sentiments, stating that they are actively considering the best use of computing power. They acknowledge that training large models can be energy and water-intensive and are continuously working towards improving efficiencies.

Related Facts

  • Microsoft’s global water consumption increased by 34% from 2021 to 2022, primarily attributed to AI research.
  • Water usage by Google also increased by 20% during the same period, largely due to its AI work.
  • ChatGPT consumes approximately 500 milliliters of water for a series of 5 to 50 prompts or questions.
  • Data centers in Iowa are playing a crucial role in AI research, consuming significant quantities of water from local rivers.

Key Takeaway

The development of AI technology, such as ChatGPT, comes at a significant cost to the environment. The increased demand for AI tools has led to a surge in water consumption, particularly in areas where data centers are located. While Microsoft and OpenAI have acknowledged these concerns and are taking steps to measure and reduce their environmental impact, it is crucial for the public to be aware of the resources consumed in AI development. Conscientious efforts are essential to conserve resources and strike a balance between the advancement of AI and sustainability.


The construction of complex AI systems like ChatGPT involves substantial resource consumption, particularly water. Iowa’s role as a birthplace for OpenAI’s GPT-4 has shed light on the immense demands of AI research and development. Microsoft, OpenAI, and Google are among the leading tech developers investing in generative AI, but they often maintain secrecy regarding the specific costs involved. As these companies continue to push the boundaries of AI technology, it is crucial for them to prioritize transparency and sustainable practices to ensure a responsible and eco-conscious future.

Denk Liu
Denk Liu
Denk Liu is an honest person who always tells it like it is. He's also very objective, seeing the situation for what it is and not getting wrapped up in emotion. He's a regular guy - witty and smart but not pretentious. He loves playing video games and watching action movies in his free time.

Most Popular