Bitcoin’s mining process is not just limited to its voracious appetite for energy. It’s also making a substantial dent in water resources. A recent analysis reveals that the water usage associated with a single Bitcoin transaction could fill a small backyard pool, as reported by The Verge. Notably, it is equivalent to about six million credit card swipes, the researcher calculates. This arrives at a significant time when Bitcoin’s value is making a comeback after a while.
Vrije Universiteit’s PhD candidate highlighted Bitcoin’s water consumption
The study conducted by Alex de Vries, a PhD candidate at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, discusses the increasing water footprint of Bitcoin. De Vries points out that Bitcoin mining operations are notorious for their excessive consumption of both electricity and water.
While concerns about the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies have encouraged legislative discussions, the main focus has always been on its effect on climate change. However, de Vries’ latest analysis notes the potential stress Bitcoin mining brings to water resources, especially in drought-prone areas.
Water serves as a cooling system to prevent machine overheating
Bitcoin mining works as a nonstop process where specialized computers solve puzzles to validate transactions and earn Bitcoin. The giant computing power required not only results in major energy consumption. But also prompts the use of substantial amounts of water in cooling systems to avoid machine overheating.
De Vries told The Verge that he was surprised by the massive water consumption linked to crypto-mining. His analysis revealed a whopping 1,600 gigaliters in 2021 when Bitcoin’s value skyrocketed. His calculations included both direct water and indirect water consumption i.e., use from cooling systems and linked to electricity generation, respectively.
Despite a temporary decline in Bitcoin’s price and mining activities in 2022, the recent surge in Bitcoin’s value to around $38,000 indicates a potential resurgence in mining activities. He predicts that global water consumption for cryptocurrency mining will reach about 2,300 gigaliters in 2023. And, the U.S. will probably become a major mining hub.
For those wondering how much 2,300 gigaliters are, it could fill a football stadium or lake with ease. Meanwhile, Ethereum ditched the energy-intensive mining process in favor of a different consensus mechanism known as Proof of Stake (PoS). De Vries advocates for proactive measures, suggesting a shift away from mining could rapidly lessen the environmental toll of Bitcoin.