Sustainable solutions: Generating water out of thin air

Microsoft Hyderabad campus produces clean drinking water

Microsoft, India
Prakash Ayyaswamy, senior portfolio manager, GWS, Microsoft India

After more than two years of working from home through the pandemic, thousands of employees returned to Microsoft’s Hyderabad campus with one question on their minds: When can they taste its new “magic water”? Four air-to-water generators were installed while they were away from their offices. The system produces nearly 2,000 litres of purified drinking water a day by capturing humidity from the air.

As part of Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to reduce its environmental impact and be carbon-negative, water positive, and zero waste by 2030, it has implemented innovative solutions to better manage resources at its campuses in India. The air-to-water generators are helping to offset four million litres of groundwater extraction per year in this water-stressed region, where water scarcity is an ongoing crisis that is expected to worsen.

These air-to-water generators are one of the many sustainability projects implemented at Microsoft campuses across India, that support the company’s climate commitments. The generators have been installed around the campus at places where piped drinking water is not available, and away from the main campus buildings. This eliminates the need for typical water dispensers and generate waste in the form of discarded plastic caps.

The generators use water present in the air to harvest it and produce clean potable water. This is achieved by pre-filtering air and condensing it into water, which is then put through a 4-step filtration process and re-mineralised before being collected in touchless dispensers strategically placed in high-footfall areas across the Hyderabad campus.

Besides preventing hundreds of litres of groundwater extraction, this initiative has led to the elimination of all plastic water bubble cans as well as Scope 3 carbon emissions from the transportation of the cans.

“Each day at Microsoft, we strive to build, deliver and operate workspaces that are connected, accessible, sustainable and secure, creating unparalleled employee experiences while shaping a healthier future for local communities and the world. We believe that technology can help individuals and organisations reach a more sustainable future,” says Ambar Mitra, regional head, Global Workplace Services (GWS), Microsoft India. “And that’s reflected in the initiatives we’ve implemented across our campuses all over India.”

During the pandemic, the real estate and facilities team decided to upgrade Microsoft’s campuses in Hyderabad and Bengaluru to align with the company’s goals. As part of its water efficiency projects, all Microsoft offices in India now have RO plants with touchless dispensers and low-flow fixtures with aerators that reduce the amount of water being released every minute.

The air-to-water generators are helping to offset four million litres of groundwater extraction per year

Leading the charter to make Microsoft’s campuses in India more sustainable is Arvindh Prakash Ayyaswamy, senior portfolio manager, GWS, Microsoft India. “I am the only engineer on the team and I like to go behind the scenes to find out the electrical and mechanical aspects of various solutions,” he says. 

To meet its commitment, Microsoft is tackling its water consumption in two ways: reducing its water use intensity and replenishing water in the water-stressed regions where it operates. This means that by 2030 Microsoft will replenish more water than it consumes on a global basis.

Microsoft believes that the future of water depends on technological innovation, and advocates for the preservation of freshwater resources on the steering committee of the UN CEO Water Mandate. In addition, Microsoft is employing technology and key partnerships to replenish water in roughly 40 highly stressed basins and is partnering with to implement part of its access commitment. 

Addressing the water crises collectively will require assessing and regulating the amount of water we use to operate economies and societies, in addition to rethinking the management of water systems. For now, Microsoft is showing the way forward. 

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First published on: 23-03-2023 at 05:00 IST