"Encountering situations where things are broken and being able to put things right is very rewarding – especially when helping a community through an incident or disaster, and so much is on the line."
Mike Ramos is Director of Engineering for Xylem’s Godwin Pumps. How does this connect him to the famous cave rescue of a Thai boys’ football team – and other major news events around the world?
In Whaley Bridge, UK, a dam collapses, sending 300 million gallons of water flooding into the streets.
In Dubai, unprecedented rainwater causes a series of floods.
And in Los Angeles where a fifth of the city’s water pipes were installed before 1931, a section of the sewers is on the brink of collapse.
In such cases, and many more around the globe, Xylem steps in, working with our customers every day to protect their communities from severe and often unexpected water challenges.
If you read the headlines, you’ll know that severe weather incidents are on the rise, due in part to the impacts of climate change. Storms and flooding are putting lives and local economies at risk – more often, in more places. My job is to partner with our customers to help move the water away from where it’s not wanted. We call this “dewatering” – it’s high-octane, high-stakes work where no day is the same.
Ideally, our input starts well before the storm or catastrophe hits. We partner with customers to prepare communities at risk of inundation well in advance, helping them build resilience and infrastructure so that if disaster strikes, it can be resolved.
It’s always better to be ready, in advance. We do this by helping water utilities and other water users build contingency plans, and putting innovative tools and procedures in place so that we can move fast if the worst happens. These tools include some of the world’s most advanced pumping systems, distributed around the globe so we can get to businesses and communities when they need us. Due to Xylem’s global reach, we can mobilize at a moment’s notice and deploy dewatering and disaster response solutions to nearly anywhere around the world.
A powerful example was the famous case a couple of years back, when a group of young boys from a Thai football team and their coach became trapped in caves underground. For 18 days, the world waited breathlessly as rescuers searched for signs of life, then mounted a global effort to extract the boys from a deep underground cave system. Xylem was honored to lend our engineers to work with the Thai authorities to re-configure the dewatering pumps in place at the cave, increasing pumping capacity by 40 percent. This helped lower water levels in the cave, which was key to enabling the successful rescue effort. This video shows Xylem’s dewatering team returning to Chiang Rai to provide clean water access system for the community.
Another example of bringing in temporary equipment in response to the unexpected is how we help our customers when a sanitary main or sewer fails, or a municipal water supply is overwhelmed by a storm. Whatever the reason, we have to remove excess water – fast – and then partner with our customers to ensure their operations are up and running, so they can provide their communities with the clean water and reliable sanitation they need.
In some cases, we install permanent back-up pumps, to kick in should infrastructure get damaged. In areas where flooding is an ongoing threat, we use permanent semi-automated Flood Protection pumps to remove excess water. We have even used pumps to generate water from depleted reservoirs.
The great thing is once we’ve installed a system, our automated Field Smart digital solutions let us monitor equipment and access data remotely. That means we can solve problems in real time, while reducing the need for manpower on the front line.
On a human level, it’s great to have a job where you make such a positive difference. As a professional, encountering situations where things are broken or not working correctly and being able to put things right is very rewarding – especially when we help a community navigate through a major incident or disaster, and so much is on the line.
In every case, knowing that we’re using innovative, industry-leading technologies and tools, combined with decades of expertise, makes me proud to be part of this team.
There are so many high points in our daily work, whether it’s helping a customer through a crisis or getting involved in Watermark, Xylem’s social contribution to the planet, where we help install water towers and filtered clean water in places without a clean supply.
What’s really exciting is the partnership we’ve built with customers and the continuing innovation pipeline, which ensures our solutions are more resilient, sustainable and easy to access than ever before.
From our work on the Thai cave rescue, to our efforts every day to help our customers protect their communities from the toughest water challenges, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.