Xylem Inc.'s tackles water issues around the world.

With an anticipated 9 billion people on the earth by 2050, agricultural production is going to have to double to feed everybody. Meanwhile, the world is apt to experience a drier and hotter climate.

As far back as 1992, the United Nations saw the pressures that would in time be placed on the globe’s water resources and adopted a resolution anointing March 22 annually as ‘World Water Day.’

Already nearly all jobs depend on water in one way or another, and this is the theme — water and jobs — that is the focus of 2016’s World Water Day, a theme that applies to the entire range of nations from the most industrialized to the most impoverished.

The theme also was on India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi’s mind, when he came to Washington in September 2014, only four months after his election in May.

President Obama organized for him a reception to meet with U.S. CEOs who had an interest in India. Among the invited guests was Patrick Decker, Xylem Inc.’s chief executive, who will be attending the annual Atlanta gala of the American India Foundation to be held at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek on April 2.

Patrick Decker
Patrick Decker

Mr. Decker is one of three honored guests including David Abney, CEO of United Parcel Service Inc., and N.K. Chaudhary, founder of Jaipur Rugs. Dennis Lockhart, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and Victor Menezes, chair emeritus of the American India Foundation and former senior vice president of Citigroup, are the scheduled speakers.

“We were all in a receiving line,” Mr. Decker recalled during an interview with Global Atlanta of his first meeting with Mr. Modi. “When I said I represented Xylem, he immediately responded that he knew xylem was the tissue that transfers water from leaves.”

And he added, Mr. Decker recalled him saying, “My single biggest challenge in the country is providing water because of how important it is for economic growth and hygiene.”

Without providing any sort of indication that that was the case, it may be that Mr. Modi already was aware of Xylem’s extensive presence in India. Later during a meeting following the time devoted to the receiving line, the CEOs were asked to describe their activities.

When it was his turn Mr. Decker said that without presuming to know all of India’s needs, his company would do whatever it could “to build out water infrastructure to sustain all of the work of the others in the room.”

As a leading global water technology provider, the White Plains, N.Y.-based company with some $4 billion in annual revenues and operations in 150 countries, Xylem already was well established in India when Mr. Decker first met Mr. Modi.

Xylem had sales and service facilities in Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Pune. It also operated a manufacturing and testing facility and a Research, Development and Engineering Center in Vadodara, Gujurat.

With 200 employees already working for it there, the company already had participated in a number of high-profile water projects in the power, industrial, irrigation and water and wastewater treatment sectors, as well as a contract to provide water transport systems to the Andhra Pradesh irrigation projects.

Xylem prides itself on its involvement in “every part of the water cycle, everywhere around the world” with its 12,500 employees working in more than 350 locations in the 150 countries where it has operations.

While Xylem is involved in huge projects around the world, it hasn’t forgotten the 2.5 billion people who earn less than $2.50 a day including those in India, Latin America, Africa and Pan-Asia.

In many countries, farmers spend half their workday carrying buckets of water tied to their backs or strapped to their shoulders from the water sources to their fields.

Agriculture generates as much as one-third of the national income of many developing countries and employs more than half of the workforce, the majority of whom are women.

Yet much of the arable land of small farmers is underutilized and their farms  condemned to producing less than they should.

Easily movable, the stepping pump enables farmers to grow more crops.
Easily movable, the stepping pump enables farmers to grow more crops.

In an effort to ease their plight, Xylem has developed a “stepping pump” enabling farmers to draw water simply by operating a dual foot pedal to charge the pump and generate a strong flow of water through a hose and spay nozzle.

The stepping pump in action
The stepping pump in action

Xylem also has a movable solar pump, which can be easily moved in the areas of their fields that need water.

Purposely simple, these tools, according to the company, represent the first steps toward farming mechanization. While easing the physical burden on farmers, it also facilitates the application of water to achieve higher yields and increased crop rotations.

Additionally, the company reports, it is developing supply chains through partnerships with distributors who sell their products to the farmers directly while creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs to further economic development.

Meanwhile, Xylem also is active in Europe where flood damage driven by climate change already has proven to be disastrous. European Commission has predicted that climate-related damages to land, property and people across the continent are to increase by an average of 200 percent by the end of the century.

In an effort to help European cities manage extreme weather events, Xylem has developed special contracts assisting them to have access to powerful pumps ensuring quick responses in the case of emergencies with de-watering and other relief equipment.

Nor has it forgotten the United States. As recently as February, Mr. Decker joined a group of leading U.S. technology experts from across the corporate, government and academic sectors in a “call to action” to develop a comprehensive water innovation strategy for the U.S.

He told Global Atlanta that the group would like to see a national water policy emerge under the oversight of National Water Commission dealing with issues of water quality, development of policies for the more efficient ways of moving and processing water and improving the capabilities of water treatment plants.

To register for the American India Foundation event, go to http://aif.org/event/annual-atlanta-gala-2016/

Companies or individuals interested in either sponsoring the event or reserving a table, call Dr. Amitabh Sharma at 404 434 7480.

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