DUBAI — A recent study outlined the devastating and undisclosed water footprint of large artificial intelligence (AI) models like ChatGPT on the world’s environment. The impact of this would be a great concern for the future of the Middle East and North Africa, the world's most water-scarce region.
This is a factor that companies like Dubai Electric and Water Authority (DEWA) — which said in February that it plans to use ChatGPT in its offerings — need to consider in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of most water-scarce countries in the world. Other highly water-scarce countries in the region plan to use ChatGPT on a large scale and face similar risks.
The amount of water needed to cool down computational processes of advanced AI-powered language learning models (LLM) like GPT-3 and GPT-4 is massive and also “kept as a secret,” according to the April 2023 report “Making AI Less ‘Thirsty’: Uncovering and Addressing the Secret Water Footprint of AI Models,” by UC-Riverside and UT-Arlington researchers.
The report estimated that OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which gives automated answers to almost any question asked, needs to drink a 500-milliliter bottle of water for every 20 to 50 questions and answers exchanged. More advanced models like GPT-3 and GPT-4 are said to consume even more.