IEEE Spectrum’s June special report on the water-energy nexus reminds us of how little we know about how much clean water is required to enjoy the comforts of the modern age. Take for instance the electronics we use every day. Just how thirsty is the chip making industry? Extrapolating from recent reports that a new ultrapure water system that GE is designing and building for a Global Foundries semiconductor fab under construction in upstate New York will need to filter millions of liters of water a day, the answer is: very thirsty.
Why? Chip making processes require each wafer to be rinsed more than 30 times. And while the reports made no mention of how much of the facility's wastewater will be recycled, Intel boasts of having received U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awards for reclaiming 25 percent of its wastewater.