“What water means to us” – Xylem voices on our shared mission to solve water

“What water means to us” – Xylem voices on our shared mission to solve water

On World Water Day 2021, Xylem celebrates the value of water and the amazing water operators and other users of water whom we partner with every day to protect and optimize this precious resource for communities around the world.

Xylem is marking this day through a series of activities, including the announcement of Water Heroes Academy, a new initiative between Xylem and City Football Group’s global foundation program, Cityzens Giving, to empower Young Leaders to deliver innovative projects that leverage football to provide vital water education in five cities around the world. Additionally, we are launching Xylem Watermark’s 5th Annual company-wide Make Your Mark 30-Day Challenge, a month-long initiative for employee and stakeholder volunteers to come together to participate safely in community events, virtually and through fundraisers, to raise awareness about water-related issues.
We are also taking time to honor this year’s theme of Valuing Water: What does water mean to you?

Below are reflections from Xylem colleagues on this all-important question – and on our shared purpose and passion to solve water and help create a more sustainable world. On behalf of Xylem Making Waves, we wish you a happy World Water Day!

- Anna Hildell, Managing Editor, Xylem Making Waves

What does water mean to you?

Patrick Decker, President and CEO, Xylem:

“I grew up in Newburgh, Indiana, during the time when the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, the next state over, became so damaged from industrial pollution that it caught on fire. It became front page news and was a major factor in starting the environmental movement in the U.S. In Indiana, I witnessed the same terrible impact of pollution on the Ohio River and my hometown, located right on its bank. I still carry those images in my mind. Seven years ago this month, I joined Xylem as CEO, and it’s my great honor to lead a company of 16,000 colleagues around the globe dedicated to working with our customers to solve water for their communities. To me, water is about looking beyond challenges and seeing extraordinary possibilities. We all need this precious resource to survive. Water is also a catalyst for economic and social progress, and the key to a healthier, safer and more sustainable and equitable world. For those of us who have the privilege to work in water, it’s also a calling. To all the heroic water operators around the world protecting and serving their communities, and all others in the water sector innovating and making a difference, I give my heartfelt thanks on this World Water Day. Let’s solve water.”

Shobha Nair, Director, International Sales, Xylem India:

“Water for me is life. It’s the natural resource that is essential for sustainable living on earth. I am conscious of the value of water every day. Here many women start their day by storing water for drinking, cooking and other household activities, as water supply for many is only available for a few hours per day. Many women in rural India also walk miles to fetch potable water for their family. My journey in Xylem started 10 years ago and during these years I have had the opportunity of working with a wide customer base who have different water-related challenges, which our technologies have helped to solve. Being a past Xylem Watermark Ambassador, I have had an opportunity to connect with people living at the base of the pyramid, facing the most extreme water and economic challenges, and I am so glad that Xylem has developed technology to help them. I feel proud of working in an area where I am able to contribute my talents to solve water challenges. Looking at the intensifying water issues across the globe, I believe it is vital to adopt best engineering practices like drip irrigation, water recycling and reuse techniques, among others, and behavioral practices like changing water use habits to save every drop of water, our own natural resource.”

Mudasser Iqbal, Director, Xylem Digital Solutions:

“I experienced water scarcity first-hand as I grew up during late 80’s in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Waiting for water tankers to deliver water every few days, cherishing every drop of water we used as we did not know when the tankers would be able to come around next, and having to purchase drinking water at three times the price of gas to run the car has taught me important lessons about the value of water, that I strive to pass on to my kids. Though by chance I have ended up making some contribution to the world’s water problems through technology, I feel blessed and eternally thankful to being part of the water journey and commit to striving for the day when no child has to wait for days to access clean drinking water."

Flora Klise, Xylem Intern and MIT BS Mechanical Engineering 2021:

"I grew up in Mystic, CT – just blocks from both Long Island Sound and the Mystic River. I am now finishing up my undergraduate years at MIT where my coursework centered on policy, sustainability and engineering has intersected on the subject of water. The collaborative culture and hands-on curriculum at MIT allowed me to test a novel desalination technology for agriculture, build an autonomous aquaculture robot, apply water diplomacy frameworks to modern conflicts, and design a humanitarian family water filter. My internship with Xylem Ignite, a global initiative working to educate, engage, and inspire youth about water, has broadened my perspective of the water industry and strengthened my passion for water. Inspired by engineers, innovators, and changemakers, I am empowered and proud to be part of the future of water." 

Christopher Palassis, Director of Sensor Development, Advanced Technology & Innovation:

“I have always loved visits to the ocean. There is something magical about that boundary between land and water, as well as water’s transformative power. It wasn’t until I began working in water 13 years ago at Xylem’s YSI business that I really began to appreciate the fragility of this precious resource by gaining an understanding of the delicate balance water lives in and the impacts our practices can have on its quality. But, it wasn’t until I was able to take a step back and view complete watersheds via satellite did the connectedness of water really come into view – each drop, forever on this planet, in different forms, performing the vital task of sustaining life. To me, water is life and must be passionately protected. I’m so proud to be able to work on Xylem’s Advanced Technology and Innovation team where I have the opportunity to collaborate with our customers and partners to discover and develop the next generation of water technologies to solve water. It’s an extraordinary privilege.”

Anna Hildell, Managing Editor, Making Waves:

“Growing up in Sweden in the 1970’s, I was surrounded by water from an early age. Not only the cold and grey brackish waters of the Baltic Sea that surrounded the island my family lived on, I also spent a lot of time in and on the lake close to our house. In the winters I spent hours and hours skiing and skating across the lake, and during summer days my friends and I swam, dived and played in the water. For the first years of my life my family didn’t have access to hot water in the house we lived in. In the summer, our shower was a water hose behind the old house we lived in, heated by the sun. During cold winters I remember washing up in a big bucket on the kitchen floor with water that my mother had heated on the stove. Growing up like this, it made me really appreciate the value of water and what a difference access to, in my case, hot water means. I try to educate my children to appreciate and not take clean water for granted and to live sustainably. Today, I still live on the same island, with the Baltic Sea right outside the windows of my family’s home. To me, water is everything, and I am so proud to be at Xylem in my role – helping tell the story of water.”

Alexis de Kerchove, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Water Infrastructure and Europe Commercial Team:

“Marine Biologist was my dream job as a child, and I was always fascinated by water. The strength of this element and the beauty of its nature were just so intriguing. When I had the opportunity to participate in a three-week deep sea research project on the RSS Discovery, I found conviction in my passion. When land is far away behind and cannot been seen anymore, and a storm sweeps the ship deck with waves of the size of a house, I realized that this element, which I only knew until then as a free beverage or a place to swim in warm days, was actually in control of my fate on earth. Several years later, a tsunami took thousands of human lives away in the Pacific Ocean, and by chance spared the one of a dear friend working as a WASH volunteer in an NGO in Sri Lanka. Only following such an event can one understand the need to learn more about water, how to preserve it, and how to control it in order to nurture, protect and preserve life on this planet. Today’s changing environment brings new challenges to the coming generations. Climate change leads to more frequent extreme weather events and seasonally makes water scarce even where it was assumed abundant. New pathogens and human-made contaminants are making water a potential direct threat to human health and ecosystems, while it is so often taken for granted as clean and safe. As a father of four kids, the challenges become personal, and the dream that I had as a kid turns into a mission to build a more resilient world where access to safe water supply and sanitation is secured for all. Today, as part of my work at Xylem, I aim at partnering with water users, managers, engineers and policymakers to discuss the challenges, navigate through the latest innovations and technologies, and find together the solutions that truly will address their need and solve their greatest water issues.”