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Part 2: “What water means to us” – Xylem voices on our shared mission to solve water

Xylem celebrates the value of water and our incredible partners, including utilities and other users of water, who are working every day to protect and optimize this essential resource for communities around the globe. In celebration of World Water Day 2021 earlier this week, Xylem colleagues shared their thoughts on this year’s theme: “Valuing Water: What does water mean to you?” Below are colleague reflections on this vital question – and on our mission to solve water.
 – Anna Hildell, Managing Editor, Xylem Making Waves

What does water mean to you?

Claudia Toussaint, Senior Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer, and General Counsel:

“Water is the essence of life and the key to sustainability, including achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. To succeed in creating a more sustainable planet, we must solve the world’s escalating water challenges. There is no other way.  Fortunately, water is an extraordinarily powerful force that inspires and brings people and communities together. Seeing, feeling, using, drinking, swimming in water reminds me that life is always reliant on it and that we are all connected through it. Whether it is the salty, windy North Sea of my childhood, the endless Pacific Ocean waves of my early professional years, the mighty Missouri River from the years when my son was little, the protected Atlantic Ocean near New York City or the beauty of the many streams, rivers and lakes of my current community in Montana. It always is the water around me that nurtures my soul. Together, let’s protect it, let’s drive innovation to conserve it and let’s advance the conversation about it so that we create a more water-secure, sustainable and equitable world for the children of our time, their children and generations beyond.”

Jason A. Johnson, P.E., Central Regional Director, Americas Commercial Team:

“Anyone who follows me on social media sees that my profile says ‘Advocate of water management in the USA and Caribbean.’ Therefore, how I present myself to the world includes water. I have navigated many parts of the water industry from flood mitigation to design and construction of conveyance systems to water management planning for water scarce countries to the use of tools/technology to solve our water challenges. There is breadth and depth to the challenges associated with the water industry, both domestically and abroad. I want to make a difference through contributing to the industry allowing for challenges we’ve faced for hundreds of years to be more effectively and sustainably handled. Few industries in the world do you have the ability to see the positive impacts of your solutions and contributions as quickly as one can within this industry. I am proud to contribute to solving the world’s water challenges and working for a company that too defines itself so simply as ‘Let’s Solve Water.’”

Kairus Tarapore, Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer:

“I was born and grew up in India, and specifically in Rajasthan, which is the desert province in India. So, it was not until I moved to Bombay, now Mumbai, that I ever experienced 24 hours of water availability. That was a novel concept for me at that time. In India and many parts of the world, even today, water challenges are a daily fact of life for many, and I became aware early on that access to clean water and safe sanitation are critical engines for social progress and equity. To me, water represents our most amazing natural resource. It also represents the power of human potential. We see water challenges accelerating around the globe, but we also see people and organizations around the world coming together to drive innovation and solve the toughest water issues threatening our planet, like water scarcity and affordability, and resilience to climate change. It’s awe-inspiring to see the passion of my colleagues at Xylem and our customers and stakeholders working together to take one of the greatest sustainability challenges of our time. At Xylem we see it as our purpose and responsibility to not only help our customers and communities to ‘solve water’… but to also educate and inform the youth and next generation in our communities, and attract and engage the best talent to join us in helping solve water for the future generations of the world.”

Rocio Echeverria, Vice President and General Manager, Xylem Vue:

“I was born and raised in Costa Rica. Some of my favorite childhood memories are the trips that my family and I used to take to the beaches on the Pacific Ocean. I remember having so much fun swimming and playing in the ocean waves. As I grew older, the beaches in that specific area we used to visit became highly contaminated – primarily with sewage – to the point that it became prohibited to go into the water. For many years now, it has been safe to swim on those beaches. However there are many places around the world, including other bodies of water in Costa Rica, where this problem still exists and weather events are just making it worse. Now, I see the same excitement in my children that I remember having as a kid, when we go to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, U.S., during the summer. I want to make sure that I do my part for future generations to be able to enjoy the oceans, lakes and rivers just like my family and I do. I consider myself so fortunate to have the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the most amazing colleagues to help the water industry protect and responsibly manage this precious and essential natural resource. There is a lot of work to be done to make water safer, more accessible, and more affordable for all but I’m optimistic for the future in front of us. Let’s solve water, and let’s do it together!”

Chetan Mistry, Strategy and Marketing Manager Africa, Xylem Water Solutions South Africa:

“‘Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you.’ – Author unknown (African Proverb)

I joined Xylem because I wanted to work in a sector that had meaning and added value to people’s lives. Since then I have constantly learnt how central water is to everything that we do as human beings. Firstly the life-sustaining nature of water is incomparable. The fact that such a valuable resource is so important, yet so finite means that we have to value and protect this resource more than any other because you cannot generate water as you can with other resources like power from the sun or wind. It is so valuable and important yet the inequality of who has access to this water and the quality of that water makes me disappointed because such a large portion of humans on earth are deprived of this most basic right. With this lack of access, the ripple effect is felt where injustices are driven further; mortality and disease rates escalate; and economic sustainability is deprived to a large portion of the people on earth. For this, I wear my heart on my sleeve to use my position in Xylem to bring awareness and provide access to water while driving technological solutions that will continue to see us develop as the human race, while still ensuring that water is valued and conserved so that we all can benefit from this treasured resource.”

Rita Nair, Director – HR, Xylem India:

“Even today, women and children around the world spend a collective 200 million hours collecting water. I believe that empowering women with water can truly change the world! Water is an essential resource for existence. Not just humans, but even the flora and fauna around us thrive because of water, and that's why I like to call it ‘Life.’ However, years of exploitation have not only left this precious resource scarce today but also have contaminated it for use in many areas of the world. And that’s why the values that Xylem stands for become even more apt in today’s day and age. Let’s rise up and work for water, not just for ourselves, but for everyone around us who is devoid of access to clean water. I feel extremely privileged, as in the last 14 years of my journey at Xylem, I along with my colleagues have been able to give back to society through the company’s stakeholder engagement and corporate social responsibility platform – Xylem Watermark. For example, I have previously been a Watermark Ambassador and currently am a Watermark Champion here at Xylem India. Through this platform, as an employee, more importantly as a responsible human being, I have volunteered and supported safe drinking water initiatives for students studying in the remotest of villages across India by installing Aqua Towers to provide clean water access.”

Jose Suarez, Product Engineer - RF, Trials and Strategic Research:

“Growing up in South America in a small beach town called Salinas, on the coast of Ecuador, was a wonderful experience; we were surrounded by water on every front, but unfortunately even though we had the Pacific Ocean as our front yard I remember living through water rationalizing periods and vividly recall the eagerness that we felt when we knew that the water tanks will soon deliver water to our neighborhood. Those memories shaped my life and inspired me to become an engineer and join Xylem, where I am proud and honored to say that we are solving the water challenges of the world through our technological innovations, social commitment and passionate people. To me, water is life and community; furthermore, water conservation is a way of living and the reason to push our boundaries by exploring new possibilities to overcome the global challenges that we face today so we can leave a better world for the generations to come. Leading the Xylem Ignite Hackathons & Innovation Competitions is the privilege of a lifetime, our new global initiative provides a platform to youth water leaders around the world to engage with Xylem and support our mission with their ideas, innovative creations, enthusiasm for a better tomorrow, and passion for water. Let’s solve water!”

Tanja Hedberg, Manager Electrical Motors R&D and Chief Engineer:

“In my childhood, water was a very visible element: from our windows I could see a little lake, a road that led to our house was named ‘Well Road,’ and we got household water from our own little water spring (not well). Sadly the lake cannot be used today for recreation and swimming as much as it was earlier because of eutrophic and cyanobacteria. The reason for this is not only human-caused pollution (higher temperatures) and agricultural deposition but also stagnant water and a shallow lake makes the situation worse. For me, water is also about providing a way to travel. I take a 16-hour boat/ferry ride over the Baltic Sea when travelling to my home country (Finland). I don’t even know how many times I have travelled during the last 20-years but it may be several hundred trips. It is such a great feeling to travel on a boat and see a beautiful, peaceful archipelago and get to home. In my work, I create new high efficiency products to decrease the environmental impact while at the same time improve the value for our customers. In this way, I get to solve and protect water for the next generation.”

Dave Ayers, VP Innovation Strategy & Partnerships, Senior Xylem Fellow:

"I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, and I can remember going to our little cabin on a lake in the northern part of the province during the summer. I can still hear the loons calling, and the sound traveling over misty water in the morning. There was such a sense of peace. I feel very lucky because I learned about the value of water and the water industry from a very early age. My father headed the water utility in Ottawa, and we spoke about water every day. I can remember visiting water treatment plants with him when I was five years old. And I remember visiting the hydroelectric generation plant and seeing the power of water, how it generated electricity for our city and other geographies. I was awed. Today, I have the extraordinary privilege of leading our innovation strategy and partnerships initiative at Xylem, where we work with leading organizations all over the globe to shape the next generation of water and smart infrastructure solutions and technologies. Knowing that our work will help protect and optimize the world’s water for my three children and future generations means everything to me."