By Susan O’Grady
With water scarcity affecting almost every inch of the globe, water challenges due to natural disasters and pressure on existing resources are accelerating the speed at which we need to solve the greatest threats to water supplies. According to the United Nations, almost one-fifth of the world’s population live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation.
As a water-technology company with operations in over 150 countries, Xylem is working to solve water challenges and provide equitable access to safe water and sanitation through education, community mobilization, nonprofit partnerships, and more. Specifically, through Watermark, its corporate social-responsibility program, Xylem is taking meaningful steps to meet the ongoing water crisis.
A Unified Effort
When employees, stakeholders, and global partners all align on a cause, a foundation for success is established. Xylem Watermark is truly a unified effort, spanning from global and local nonprofits to rural communities and cities, to the men and women who work behind the scenes at Xylem.
Through partnership with global and local nonprofits on sustainable development projects, Watermark provides programmatic community interventions that target water and sanitation education and access, as well as financial support.
Watermark also participates in and oversees recovery and relief efforts in the aftermath of natural disasters and weather events, deploying experts to disaster sites, raising funds, and sending critical items such as food and sanitary supplies. When a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit Haiti in August 2021 following Tropical Depression Grace, Watermark partnered with Mercy Corps to support its response efforts, including communicating emergency alerts; delivering water, sanitation and hygiene products; and repairing community water systems impacted by widespread flooding and landslides.
Xylem employees and stakeholders are also actively involved with and encouraged to participate in helping address water challenges by providing pro bono expertise and making corporate-matched monetary donations. These efforts have proven to be successful, with 78 percent of employees volunteering and 113,000 collective hours of service donated to Watermark in 2021. In that same year, 2,109 external stakeholders also volunteered. Watermark also offers up to $10,000 in critical funds to support and collaborate on water-related community development projects and events.
Watermark in Action Hometown H2o and Xylem
The Hometown H2o program ensures clean water access for educational facilities, indigenous communities, and residential homes. Working with Xylem, Hometown H2o is a three-tiered effort from two-time Super Bowl champion Chris Long; his foundation’s Waterboys initiative; and the Water Well Trust (WWT), a nonprofit arm of the Water Systems Council that helps provide wells for people in the U.S. who lack a safe drinking water supply.
Although efforts to provide safe water resources are often focused on developing countries, lack of access to safe water is a global epidemic. According to the US Water Alliance, more than 2 million people living in low-income, rural, and tribal communities in the U.S. do not have access to affordable, safe water. For residents in remote areas in particular, hooking into the municipal water supply can be difficult and cost prohibitive.
However, with the help of the Water Supply Cost Savings Act, signed into law in 2016, nonprofit efforts like Hometown H2o have helped introduce cost-effective alternatives, such as water well systems. Hometown H2o also helps raise awareness about domestic water availability issues and provides safe water access to rural communities through its extensive partnership network.
The Story of the Salazar Family
Nearly 25 years ago, Luis and Nancy Salazar moved their family closer to relatives in Bulverde, Texas. Like many other rural Americans, the Salazar family did not have access to a reliable source of clean water. Between caring for their daughter, Nissi, who has cerebral palsy, and living on a modest income, the Salazars lacked the funds to finance and build a well. Instead, they shared water from a well located on Nancy’s parents’ property. In February 2019, Nancy filled out an online application through the WWT and qualified for a grant.
The subsequent volunteering effort to install a new well for the Salazar family was a multitiered one. Xylem’s local distributor coordinated product donations from several manufacturers, while a local contractor provided drilling services at a discounted labor rate. In July 2019, a crew assessed the Salazar property. Not only was a new well installed, but more than 35 volunteers cleaned up the Salazar’s yard and built a chicken coop for the family’s flock of chickens.
Since the first joint Xylem and Hometown H2o project activation in 2020, a total of 11 projects have been completed in Virginia, Oregon, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Georgia, and Missouri.
Water Stewardship Worldwide
Equally vital to Xylem’s safe-water initiatives are its global water-stewardship efforts. Leveraging Xylem’s solutions, services, and expertise, Xylem customers and communities are helping to conserve natural resources and protect our environment for future generations.
Through partnership with China Women’s Development Foundation in the Sichuan Province of China, Xylem employees and customers helped bring a water supply system to the remote village of Taoyuan, and drinking water stations and water education programming to Wolong Primary School in Wenchuan.
In the Noida region of Delhi, India, Watermark volunteers built a water tower to bring clean water to the community, which includes the 750 students of the Arya Deep School. Now, more than 1,000 students and community members have access to clean water. Xylem-led instruction on hygiene and water health and the importance of hand washing will leave a lasting impact on the students at Arya Deep School, and Xylem will continue its efforts by building AquaTowers through its partnership with Planet Water Foundation.
Working with local community members and leaders in Cameroon, Africa, Watermark partners with Build People Worldwide, an organization that provides access to clean water and economic development education. Through the singular act of providing simple water filters, clean drinking water is accessible to a family for up to 25 years.
A Real Opportunity
Water-treatment companies have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others. Through Watermark, we are seeing daily the impact we can have when we work together. Xylem not only provides access to clean water and sanitation, but also continually educates and builds awareness of empowering the next generation to come.
The challenges the water sector faces are certainly vast, but meaningful change for a better future is always possible.
Find out more about Xylem and its Watermark efforts at https://www.xylem.com/en-us/watermark/.
About the author
Susan O’Grady is director of marketing at Xylem Inc. and has more than 20 years of experience in the residential and agriculture pump market. O’Grady holds degrees from Pepperdine University and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. As an active member of the Water Systems Council, she partnered with Water Well Trust Executive Director Margaret Martens to oversee the Holly Ridge, NC, water well project with the help of Xylem’s Goulds Water Technology, Merrill Drilling & Water Resources in Penrose, NC, and Hughes Supply in Statesville, NC.
About the company
Xylem (XYL) is a global water-technology company committed to solving critical water and infrastructure challenges with innovation. Our 17,000 diverse employees are creating a more sustainable world by enabling our customers to optimize water and resource management and helping communities in more than 150 countries become water secure. Learn more at xylem.com.