City Sues to Keep Google's Water Use Secret

The city argues it's a Google "trade secret."

Google data center, Eemshaven, Netherlands, May 2021.
Google data center, Eemshaven, Netherlands, May 2021.

THE DALLES, Ore. (AP) — The city of The Dalles, Oregon, has filed suit in an effort to keep Google's water use a secret.

The move comes ahead of a key City Council vote on a $28.5 million water pact between the city and the tech giant.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the city is seeking to overturn a ruling earlier from Wasco County’s district attorney, who found Google’s water use is a public record and ordered The Dalles to provide that information to the news organization.

The city sued Friday, asking a judge to intervene.

Google is contemplating two new server farms on the site of a former aluminum smelter in The Dalles, where it already has an enormous campus of data centers on its property along the Columbia River.

Google says it needs more water to cool its data centers, but neither the company nor the city will say how much more – only that The Dalles can’t meet Google’s needs without expanding its water system. The deal calls for Google to pay for the upgrade.

The proposed water pact has attracted scrutiny and skepticism in The Dalles, a riverfront city of about 15,000 approximately 80 miles east of Portland.

Residents and nearby farmers are concerned about the city’s water long-term water supply amid an ongoing drought. They complain they don’t know enough about Google’s actual water use.

The city is now going to court to keep that information under wraps, arguing it’s a Google “trade secret” exempt from disclosure under Oregon law.

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