A recent report has sparked concern among environmental advocates over the significant water consumption and pollution caused by cryptocurrency mining.
The study by Alex de Vries, published in the Cell Reports Sustainability journal, is the first to estimate the global crypto industry’s water footprint. It highlights the extensive use of water for cooling computers in large data centers and for temperature management in coal and gas-fired power plants that power the mining. The report’s findings were discussed at a press conference featuring environmental advocates and community members from New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky.
The report reveals startling figures, such as Bitcoin mining consuming over 1,600 gigaliters (GL) of water worldwide in 2021, with the U.S. share being 93 to 120 GL annually, equating to the water usage of 300,000 households or a city like Washington, D.C. Each Bitcoin transaction uses an average of 16,000 liters of water, enough to fill a backyard swimming pool, and 6.2 million times more than a credit card transaction. The increase in Bitcoin’s water footprint from 2020 to 2021 was a staggering 166%, and it’s projected to rise to 2,300 GL in 2023.
Environmental advocates and affected community members are calling for urgent regulatory oversight to mitigate the environmental impacts of cryptocurrency mining. Mandy DeRoche from Earthjustice highlighted the prolonged pollution from fossil fuel power plants due to energy-intensive crypto mining. Local New Yorkers like Abi Buddington expressed concerns about the threat to the Finger Lakes region from plants like Greenidge Generation, while Jackie Sawicky from the Texas Coalition Against Cryptomining emphasized the critical drought issues in Texas. Erik Kojola of Greenpeace USA urged financial institutions to reconsider their investments in Bitcoin mining, aligning with their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals.
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