EYES ON THE WORLD
Xylem understands the benefit of a supportive community — it has received major grants and tax credits from New York State, allowing it to create hundreds of new jobs — and how that boost can ripple outward. Great partnerships can spark great change. While Xylem is at its heart a water technology company, “we’re also committed to creating social and economic value to the communities we serve,” says Vesey.
Chief among these is addressing the “walk for water,” a laborious and sometimes life-crushing daily process around the world. In many places, particularly in Asia and Africa, people (typically women) must walk several miles a day just to collect water. In a study of 25 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, UNICEF estimated that women spend 16 million hours collecting water each day. The result is billions in lost economic opportunities.
Water is also heavy, which can lead to physical injury from constant lifting and carrying heavy loads. The World Health Organization recommends 20-50 liters of water per person per day for drinking, cooking, and washing. That amounts to hauling between 44 and 110 pounds of water for each household member, which can result in strained backs, shoulders, and necks.
Access to proper sanitation also means reduced risk of sexual violence and increased safety as women and girls do not have to go to remote, dangerous places to relieve themselves.
Understanding the political, social, and economic context of water issues of these regions that are so far removed from the U.S. is critical. “It’s not just about developing technology to meet our customers’ needs, but also adopting that to their budgetary and social constraints,” Iyengar says. “We have to solve both the technical problems, as well as the practical problems.”
Xylem Watermark, the company’s corporate citizenship program, is key. It helped build more than 150 AquaTowers and taught communities around the world about water health and hygiene. AquaTowers can produce 10,000 liters of clear water per day, enough to sustain more than 1,000 people. The AquaTower filters out bacteria, protozoa, viruses, pathogens, and other contaminants greater than 0.01 micron, producing clean drinking water.
One recent win: Five rural schools in Siem Reap Province of Cambodia now have clean water access for the first time. Over the course of five days in June, AquaTowers and hygiene education were provided to primary and secondary schools that only had access to untreated, contaminated well water, causing many to suffer from waterborne illnesses. Now, more than 5,000 people have access to clean water.
The company can help avert smaller-scale disasters, too. Xylem’s tech experts were on hand to engineer the pumping system that helped free the Thai youth soccer team trapped in a flooded cave this summer.