Across the world, one in nine people don’t have reliable access to clean, safe water.
“Everything flows from having clean water,” said Mort Anoushiravani, Mercy Corps’ water engineer and infrastructure director. “It’s a source of improved health, livelihoods and conflict mitigation.”
In South Sudan (below) and elsewhere, many families rely on natural springs and other water bodies. Without water storage, taps can suddenly run dry. And without purification systems, life-giving water harbors disease and parasites.
Mercy Corps works with Xylem, a corporate partner, to address urgent water needs in some of the world's toughest places.
Why work with a partner? Combining Mercy Corps' experience mobilizing communities in remote regions and working in complex, challenging situations, along with Xylem's specialized knowledge in water technology, means the pair can reach more people in need. And, they can offer more intensive, holistic solutions through Xylem's technical expertise.
Xylem is one of world’s largest providers of equipment to treat and transport water. Focused on sustainable resource use, Xylem designs pumps, treatment plants and water quality tests for agricultural, commercial and residential use.
In 2008, Mercy Corps first partnered with Watermark, Xylem’s corporate citizenship and social investment program, to provide safe water after natural disasters in Indonesia, Kenya, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
When floods devastated Pakistan in 2010, Watermark and Mercy Corps quickly brought clean water to relief camps.
Munawar Abbas, above, a water quality manager in Sukkur, Pakistan, tests chlorine levels during a water filtration clinic in 2010 made possible through Mercy Corps' partnership with Watermark.
Although Xylem’s technology is sold in more than 150 countries, it has the greatest presence in the United States and Europe. By partnering with Mercy Corps, Xylem can fulfill its mission to improve water access globally.
But the partnership is about more than immediate, humanitarian aid.
To prevent future water emergencies, Mercy Corps and Xylem work together to improve community water systems, install better filtration and purification infrastructure, and train local communities on water safety.
“The greatest number of lives can be saved by addressing water-related risks before a disaster occurs,” said Michael Fields, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Xylem.
“We desperately need new solutions, and the challenge to private companies and nonprofits globally is to find new ways of working together to help vulnerable communities prepare before disaster strikes.”
Watermark and Mercy Corps worked together in 2009, for instance, to help a Sri Lankan community get outfitted with a new water system (above).
By working with a leader in the water industry, Mercy Corps is able to match big problems with big solutions.
For example, when the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history struck the country in 2011, the accompanying tsunami destroyed a salmon hatchery in Minamisanriku. The hatchery played a critical role in the region’s salmon fishing industry.
Watermark’s Emergency Response Fund supported Mercy Corps’ work to rebuild the hatchery. Together, the organizations provided holding tanks, vehicles, fishing nets and other necessary supplies. The hatchery released 5 million baby salmon just one year after the quake.
In the photo above, three-month-old salmon swim in a bucket at the rebuilt Minamisanriku hatchery in Japan.
Today, one of the world’s greatest water challenges is in Jordan. Already one of the most water scarce countries in the world, Jordan is buckling under the strain of absorbing an influx of more than half a million Syrian refugees.
Mercy Corps is working with Xylem to provide water at the Zaatari refugee camp. Together, the organizations built deep-water wells and a system to supply clean drinking water. Now refugees are supplementing these water sources with rainwater catchment systems.
Before the conflict in Syria, the Zaatari camp (above) was an open desert. Now up to 120,000 refugees live on the land, making it the fourth largest city in Jordan.
Wells and holding tanks at the Zaatari refugee camp help families get the clean water they need to drink, cook and clean.
Partnerships are powerful. Working together, Mercy Corps and Watermark have helped give more than 1.6 million people access to clean water so far, as well as improved water systems in communities across the globe.
Read our interview with Keith Teichmann, Director of Innovative Networks and Marketing and Vice President at Xylem Inc. here: http://www.globalenvision.org/2014/04/28/solving-world%E2%80%99s-water-issues-how-focusing-profit-can-help-poor.