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Bitcoin Water Footprint Adds Pressure to Mining Regulations: Report

David Pokima
Last updated: | 2 min read
Source: Pixabay / Michael Wuensch

Popular Bitcoin (BTC) critic Alex De Vries says the asset uses about 16,000 liters of water which can fill a pool for each transaction on the network, a claim that has sparked diverse reactions. 

In a study released on Nov 29, De Vries opined that Bitcoin has a growing water footprint in addition to its already existing high energy usage. The claims have received several reactions including pushbacks by pro-BTC commentators and support from some analysts.

Due to growing international concerns around drinking water availability, it is crucial to understand the water footprint of Bitcoin mining and its potential impact. Siddik et al. estimate that Bitcoin mining was responsible for consuming 1,572.3 gigaliters (GL) of water in 2021.”

According to the report, BTC’s water footprint has surged in recent years as adoption and mining activity continue to grow. The network recorded a surge of water usage by 166%  in 2021 compared to 2020 figures.

Notably, 2021 was essentially a bull market that saw the asset tap its all-time high boosting the overall ecosystem. While the water footprint in 2021 stood at 1,573.7 GL, it was a mere 591.2 GL the previous year.

The combination of cooling systems and indirect sources is the reason behind the huge numbers. However, the trend can be reversed by immersion cooling and moving to sources that do not require fresh water and an ultimate change in network software.

The report comes at a time when Bitcoin miners are already facing headwinds from regulators over its high energy usage compared to several countries. Authorities and climate activists continue to mount pressure on miners by issuing outright bans, resuming energy supply, and imposing taxes to reduce their carbon footprint.

In 2021, China banned digital asset mining activities citing climate concerns setting the time for other government sanctions. This year, Kazakhstan has reduced the supply of electricity to Bitcoin miners while the White House attempted to impose a 30% cryptocurrency mining tax.

More regulations? Analysts are divided 

Some Analysts have said the study might impact the industry negatively as tighter mining regulations would be imposed. However, others wrote it off calling the comparison unfair adding that he has always been a Bitcoin critic. 

His research platform previously published Bitcoin transactions comparing each to “808,554 Visa transactions or 60,802 hours of watching YouTube.”

This metric has been downplayed by the Cambridge University Center for Alternative Finance as they noted that, “transaction throughput is independent of the network’s electricity consumption. Adding more mining equipment and thus increasing electricity consumption will have no impact on the number of processed transactions.”

Similarly, Daniel Batten added that De Vries has a niche for making widely inaccurate statements about Bitcoin coupled with the fact that he is a staff of the Dutch central bank and a long-standing critic of the top cryptocurrency.