Amazon will announce the location of its second headquarters (HQ2) later this year. The company recently shortlisted 20 cities for HQ2’s consideration, projecting an influx of 50,000 jobs to the selected city. The HQ2 decision will cause widespread impact, affecting both the economy and the selected metro area’s energy and water resources.
In the U.S., the average person uses 80 gallons of water per day. 50,000 new jobs will lead to at least 1.4 billion gallons of additional water used per year in the selected city. The U.S. per capita water usage is amongst the highest in the world, due to historically lower water rates that have disincentivized conservation. Many of the cities on the shortlist have experienced decades of water shortage issues, and the migration of more than 50,000 new residents could add significant stress to the cities’ dwindling water supplies.
According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 40 U.S. states will face a water shortage in the next 10 years. Top contenders for HQ2 include Atlanta, Austin, Dallas and Los Angeles, which have all faced severe drought in recent years as well as concerns over water supply. As consumption increases in these markets, water rates will be forced to rise in order to combat aging infrastructure and to encourage conservation.
Other cities on the shortlist include Washington D.C., Raleigh and Miami, which are flagged as high risk for water shortages due to diminishing groundwater reserve supply. High water use not only creates supply issues, but can also create dangerous drinking water circumstances. For example, in Atlanta, loss of pressure to the water system resulted in a “boil water advisory” to protect citizens against pathogens that grow in stagnant water.
The same week Amazon announced its short list of potential HQ2 locations, Cape Town’s already severe water crisis intensified. Due to dramatic population growth and lack of alternative sources, Cape Town may become the first major global city to run out of water. Current forecasts indicate the city may deplete its water supply by April 2018.
In sharp contrast to the U.S.’ average usage of 80 gallons per day, citizens in Cape Town are allotted only 25 gallons per day, soon to drop even further to 13 gallons per day in early February. Those who do not stay within the confines of their ration may have their water shut off completely. While Cape Town has struggled with water supply in the past, their situation has since deteriorated rapidly and should serve as a warning for other major metros around the world.
Amazon’s choice for HQ2 will make a significant impact on the water supply of its selected city, and will likely impact the cost of water as well as the city’s infrastructure in subsequent years as overall usage rises. Amazon’s construction and management strategy for HQ2 should include aggressive water and energy management and reduction goals, as well as careful coordination with local government and utility agencies.