Making Our Mark on World Water Day

By Michael Fields

Michael C. Fields is the Director of Xylem Watermark, Xylem Inc.’s corporate citizenship and social investment program. He oversees development, execution and communication for the program, which has delivered water, sanitation and hygiene solutions in more than 20 countries worldwide.

On a planet that now holds more than seven billion people all vying for the same one percent of fresh water, Xylem’s commitment to provide and protect clean water resources for communities in need is more relevant than ever.

Today is International World Water Day, which is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.

Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater and its theme this year—water and food security—couldn’t be more pressing. But what do we really know about water—where it goes, what it’s used for, and how to preserve it? Here are a few water facts to get people thinking about what the “food and water crisis” really means, and how we can begin to change things.

  • India, China and the United States together account for about one-third of the water extracted each year globally.
  • Over 90 percent of the water consumed globally by humans is used for agriculture.
  • Only 16 percent of world’s cropland is irrigated. But because irrigated land is more than twice as productive, that land accounts for 36 percent of the food we harvest.
  • To meet the constant demand for irrigation, countries are increasingly using more and more non-renewable groundwater. According to the United Nations, groundwater extraction has tripled in the last half century. India and China’s use of groundwater grew the most – today these countries use ten times as much groundwater as they did in 1950.

Water challenges are multidimensional and inextricably linked to other emerging issues. There is an urgent need to highlight water as the nexus among human security, economic development and environmental sustainability.  Because water is a natural resource, social asset, and an economic necessity, water governance depends on cooperation between organizations and agencies, national governments and local authorities, science, business, and even individuals such as you and I. What can you do?

  • Support sustainable, water-efficient agriculture, renewable energy and conservation.
  • Support research and innovations that help conserve water, improve water quality, water treatment and purification, to new technologies for water re-use and recycling, to pollution.
  • Support organizations that support and advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
  • Save thousands of gallons of water a year by following simple water conservation practices around your home and workplace.  Simple things like turning off the water while brushing your teeth and rinsing dishes or installing a circulator pump can save thousands of gallons of water a year.

The Xylem Watermark corporate citizenship and social investment program works year-round to provide and protect safe water resources for communities in need through our partners, Water For People, Mercy Corps and China Women’s Development Foundation. Xylem donates funds and product to support these efforts, but our employees are critical to achieving our goal of providing one million people with clean water and sanitation solutions by the end of 2013.

Xylem provides a spectrum of engagement opportunities that make it easy for everyone to support this important cause, and today, as we celebrate World Water Day 2012, I am excited to share a very important opportunity.  Celebrate World Water Day 2012 (March 22) by activating a $1 donation to Xylem Watermark’s nonprofit partners at www.xylemwatermark.com/infographic.

I hope you will join us in supporting Xylem Watermark, our partners and our mission this World Water Day.