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Company aims to accelerate provision of basic human right

An image of Chetan Mistry

HOLISTIC APPROACH REQUIRED Water connect organisations and the communities they serve. It's not effective to focus only on narrow areas

15th March 2024

By: Lumkile Nkomfe

Creamer Media Reporter

     

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Amid South Africa’s water infrastructure crisis, global water solutions company Xylem says improving public awareness on water scarcity, quality and sustainability remain crucial in fast-tracking collective efforts to safeguard the provisioning of potable water.

The company commends the ‘Water for All’ campaign as a way of educating the public on pertinent water challenges. This is captured under the overarching premise of ensuring that everyone’s basic human right of access to water is met.

Xylem highlights that the country’s water infrastructure is under severe pressure, owing to a lack of maintenance and growing population, adding that there has not been a sizable infrastructure spend to expand the water infrastructure network and meet public demand.

The company stresses the importance of preventing infrastructure regression as a way of ameliorating constrained water infrastructure systems.

In terms of improving its operational efficiency, Xylem emphasises that the water cycle must be viewed in its totality to mitigate losses through the value chain.

“Water connects organisations and the communities they serve. “It's not effective to focus only on narrow areas, such as how much water one site consumes. Water challenges become solutions when you take a holistic approach, such as including the impact on local communities,” says Xylem strategy and marketing manager Chetan Mistry.

The company asserts that technology is key to understanding the water infrastructure network.

Mistry argues that software, sensors and other interlinked technological solutions can provide sufficient data to develop meaningful insight and solutions. Yet, technology is just an enabler and most effective when part of a strategic approach, which covers all aspects from implementation to operations. The real value of water technologies emerges through improved management, efficiencies, and spotting future needs such as preventative and predictive maintenance, he notes.

To advance its sustainability strategy, Xylem adopts a multi-layered approach in terms of its corporate and social responsibility.

Every year, the company encourages Xylem employees to spend a small portion of their working hours engaging in corporate and social responsibility initiatives involving various communities.

“The strategy is to create self-sustaining and water-secure environments. For example, many schools have rudimentary farms to support their nutrition programmes. But these often suffer from poor water reticulation systems. Our approach would be to install drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting and pumping systems, ” Mistry explains.

Xylem assists with disaster relief programmes, such as its recent efforts to address the 2022 floods, in KwaZulu-Natal, during which time it sent a mobile treatment unit to provide communities with safe drinking water. The company also erected infrastructure at schools to bolster their water systems, Mistry adds.

There has been a good deal of appetite from the private sector to add its weight to addressing the country’s water infrastructure challenges. Xylem has also had discussions with the Department of Water and Sanitation about how the department could deploy specific water strategies to ensure that favourable water solutions are implemented.

Further, Xylem says it plays a strategic advisory role to various municipalities as opposed to its sole mandate being as a technology provider. Mistry points out that the company’s role is not confined to selling products to clients, as it aims to ensure that clients derive the maximum benefits from its products.

The company also supports the South African Youth Water Prize, a science and technology competition that tasks high school learners with identifying and addressing water-related problems in their communities. The winner represents South Africa at the prestigious Stockholm Junior Water Prize, held in Sweden every year.

Xylem contends that the increase of water sustainability campaigns will foster educated and responsible public attitudes to water preservation. The company notes that the water sector is finally being elevated into the collective consciousness as people begin to understand that there is a finite amount of water, and it cannot go to waste.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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