Hope springs eternal

Hope springs eternal

Operating in more than 150 countries, Xylem is one of the world's largest water technology solutions providers. While primarily targeting mining, municipal and large corporate customers, Xylem's mission statement also involves giving back to the community by providing safe water resources for villages in need around the world, as well as educating people about water and sanitation issues.

Xylem's charitable arm Watermark works with a range of not-for profit global organisations including Planet Water, Earth Echo, Mercy Corps, Water for People, Fundación AVINA and China Women's Development Fund – reaching throughout Asia and Oceania as well as Central and South America. Along with supplying equipment and expertise, Xylem also encourages its staff to donate their time and money – matching their financial contributions dollar for dollar.

Access to safe drinking water is something most people take for granted, but Xylem is determined to ensure it extends to every corner of the globe, says Xylem's Managing Director Oceania Jim Athanas.

"This kind of work is central to our core values as a company, as without water there is no life," says Athanas, whose team covers 16 locations across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. "Our Oceania leadership team recently donated a borehole in Fiji, going down 10 metres, but it's much more than digging holes – we also provide infrastructure such as pumps, power and water tanks to ensure the entire village can enjoy access to a safe and reliable water source.

"Xylem does this on a global scale, so we will do things in the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh and some South American countries. Giving back to the community is a key part of our greater purpose."

Xylem has supported 777 local water projects in 25 countries, touching the lives of 2.8 million people around the world, including Australia where it has been working with remote Aboriginal communities via the Northern Territory's government-owned utility provider Power and Water.

Xylem's bread and butter is large-scale water and wastewater transportation solutions, born out of a background in pumping expertise. A publicly listed company on the New York Stock Exchange, Xylem was formed in 2011 when US-based ITT Corporation span off its Water & Wastewater, Residential & Commercial Water, Analytics and Flow Control business segments into a new entity. The name is drawn from the company's prime objectives – Xylem is a botanical term referring to the tissues which help transport water and nutrients from a plant's roots to its leaves in order to nourish life.

Major water authority government bodies such as Sydney Water are some of Xylem's largest customers, along with mining giants including BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group. It also operates in the food and beverage sector, serving the likes of Coca-Cola Amatil, plus it is a significant player in the building services area working through large plumbing companies and building contractors.

Xylem's pumping expertise comes via its Flygt brand, a pioneer in the municipal, mining and construction pumping sector. Flygt's offerings include the N-impeller pump with anti-clogging technology, utilising blades with backswept leading edges to sweep solids from the centre to the perimeter of an inlet. The pump minimises call-out costs, along with reducing regular service and maintenance expenses for sewage pump stations, but it can benefit all pumping operations.

Meanwhile Flygt's Concertor intelligent pump, with an integrated variable speed drive, is designed to save businesses the expense of owning different sized pumps, as well as lower operating costs.

Other Xylem brands include Lowara and Godwin for pumping, WTW for monitor control, Sanitaire and Leopold for filtration and Wedeco for disinfection.

This spread of expertise lets Xylem offer monitoring sensors along with a range of water treatment processes including solid/liquid separation, filtration and non-chemical disinfection using ultraviolet light and ozone. The business has five growth centres – transport, treatment, dewatering, analytics, applied water systems and sensus, which are interconnected to cover every stage of the water cycle.

With the tag line "Let's  Solve Water", Xylem devotes its technology, time and talent to advancing the smarter use of water, Athanas says. Interconnectivity and smart networks present significant opportunities to improve water management around the world, with Xylem well-positioned to lead the way.

"A lot of customers are interested in the Internet of Things – the ability for devices and networks to be interconnected," Athanas says. "It lets us build smarts into our products to put more information at our customers' fingertips, helping them make better decisions.

"We recently acquired a company called Sensus to help us move up the technology curve and our aim is to allow our customers to acquire strategic real-time information around their systems so they can optimise their efficiency as well as improve global water management."

While technology is helping Xylem realise its ambitions to improve coordinated water management in the face of growing ecological challenges, Athanas is frustrated at Australia's fragmented approach to water management.

"In Australia, both State and Federal governments need to improve their approach to water management and I think the lack of a well-articulated, consistent water policy is holding us back as a country," he says.

"We talk about carbon trading and we talk about greenhouse gases but we don't talk enough about water and without water there is no life. Yet in this country we still do not have a standardised water policy at the state and Federal level, which is quite disappointing and frustrating."

Australia's lack of a coordinated water policies not only hampers water management efforts, it also creates uncertainty which makes it more difficult for the private sector to invest in the future.

"Just look at what's happening with the Murray-Darling Basin – you've got three governments fighting over the rights to access that water and you've companies who are in three different states uncertain of the future regarding access to that water," Athanas says.

“When you consider how crucial water management is to the future prosperity of this continent, Australia needs to make more of an effort to manage its water wisely."

Xylem Inc
Jim Athanas