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Tackling the global water crisis with expert partner Xylem

Jordan, June 21, 2013

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  • The influx of Syrian refugees into Jordan is threatening to drain the water supply in the world's fourth driest country. We're working with Xylem to build wells and improve infrastructure to protect this scarce natural resource while ensuring families have enough clean water. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

Water is undeniably an essential element for life. It’s so basic. Yet one in nine people in the world do not have access to the clean, safe water that they need. That’s 780 million people — twice the population of the United States.

And it’s a problem that’s getting worse: climate change is making water more scarce in some areas, while flooding threatens others; swelling populations and massive global displacement strain resources; and a crumbling infrastructure in many places wastes what precious water there is to go around.

Mercy Corps has been focused on tackling these issues for years because we know so much depends on water. “It’s a source of improved health, livelihoods and conflict mitigation,” says Mort Anoushiravani, our water engineer and infrastructure director. “Everything flows from having clean water.”

SEE PHOTOS: Making the world's water go further

When people have a safe and reliable water source, they can prevent deadly disease, grow more food, raise stronger animals, avoid violent conflict and spend more time pursuing an education and supporting themselves and their families.

Working together makes larger impact

We are making progress to increase access to water around the world, but we also recognize that the most challenging water problems are too large and complex to be solved alone. That’s why our partnership with Xylem is so important to making a long-term impact.

The global water technology company shares our passion — their call to action is “Let’s Solve Water” — and has been working with us since 2008 through its corporate responsibility and social investment program, Watermark. During those five years, we’ve helped people get lifesaving water in 17 countries, including Indonesia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti.

With Xylem’s financial support and expertise, we are able to think — and act — on a larger scale. We rebuild entire community water systems. We design water filtration and purification infrastructure that didn’t exist before. And we look ahead, responding to the threat of future flooding by constructing better protections and training people on safety skills.

Syrian refugee crisis is greatest water challenge yet

Today, the epicenter of the global water crisis is in Jordan, where we are facing perhaps our greatest challenge yet: meeting the water and sanitation needs of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Here, in the fourth driest country in the world, scarce water resources are strained by the influx of refugee families fleeing violence in their homeland.

The cornerstone of our work together, along with our partner UNICEF, has been the development of a deep water well that went into operation this spring and is providing precious clean water to tens of thousands of families at Zaatari refugee camp. However, as the refugee population keeps increasing with no end in site, Xylem and Mercy Corps are needed more than ever.

Our water engineers are collaborating closely with Xylem’s team to develop solutions in this uncharted territory. A year ago, the Zaatari site was a vast desert — now it houses as many as 140,000 residents, making it the fifth largest city in Jordan. At the same time, infrastructure in northern towns also hosting refugees is falling apart under the strain, losing water every day through leaky pipes.

We must find ways to provide clean water while considering how we protect the limited supply. Xylem’s commitment to providing high-quality equipment and holistic solutions is key to this — we can improve municipal systems to prevent waste, use more efficient pumps so people get water reliably, develop sanitation tools to prevent disease, and make sure that new wells are sustainable.

This is just one example of how our partnership in the field is making a real difference for families struggling to find water. Mercy Corps knows the challenges of protecting and delivering clean water in the world’s toughest places. We know how to mobilize local communities to identify their needs and better manage their resources. Xylem provides not only the equipment, but also the expertise and support to implement truly ground-breaking initiatives.

Together, we’ve helped more than 1.6 million people get access to clean water and are committed to pioneering new solutions with new partners that will change the way we talk about solving water.