Significant Job Opportunity Created By Sustainable Water Practices
Pacific Institute Study Identifies 136 Occupations that Promote Water Savings; 28 Do Not Require Bachelor’s Degree
The Pacific Institute has released a comprehensive study, Sustainable Water Jobs: A National Assessment of Water-Related Green Job Opportunities. The report finds that proactive investments increasing efficient water use and re-use will both address growing problems associated with drought, flooding, and contamination and create jobs in a wide range of professions. The study identifies 136 different kinds of jobs involved in implementing sustainable water strategies, from plumbers to landscapers, engineers to irrigation specialists. Thirty-seven of these job types are also projected to have high growth in the overall economy, with each projected to have more than 100,000 job openings across industries by 2020.
The Pacific Institute identifies numerous sustainable water occupations that are accessible to workers without advanced degrees. Twenty-seven of the 37 occupations with 100,000 job openings by 2020 generally require on-the-job training, with some requiring previous experience and associate’s degrees or technical training, but not bachelor’s or graduate degrees. This translates to a more feasible pathway to employment for adults without formal education beyond high school.
“This research indicates that water policy can expand demand for workers without bachelors or advanced degrees if occupational training programs and pathways to jobs are created,” said Eli Moore of the Pacific Institute. “However, the occupations with median wages below the national median demonstrate that measures to improve job quality must also be a priority.”
In addition, the study finds an investment of $1M in alternative water supply projects yields 10-15 jobs; in stormwater management, 5-20 jobs; in urban conservation and efficiency, 12-22 jobs; in agricultural efficiency and quality, 14.6 jobs; in restoration and remediation, 10-72 jobs.
“Preparing people who need work to install and maintain water-saving devices and projects can heal our communities environmentally and economically,” said Annette Williams, Director of BEST Academy at the New York-based organization Sustainable South Bronx. BEST Academy has trained people to work in river restoration, construction of rain gardens, and other water-related fields.
“The high number of workers that will move into these occupations also means a growing demand for occupational training, creating an opportunity to train a new generation with the skills that will make their sector more sustainable,” said Moore. “Workers trained to advance water sustainability in these areas will likely experience high demand and have a competitive edge.”
Of the 27 sustainable water occupations with higher projected openings, half have median wages above the national median wage of $16.57 per hour, but job quality varies considerably. Landscaping and agricultural workers, for example, have low wages and benefits while jobs like plumbers and welders are higher quality. Unionization in these occupations varies from the low 4-7 percent of farmworkers and recreation workers to 20 percent of construction workers and plumbers. Under-representation of women and people of color in the current workforce in growing sustainable water occupations suggests that efforts will have to be made to achieve equity in these fields.
“It’s key to include local hiring and minority hiring requirements and incentives that increase contracting and hiring with individuals from local and disadvantaged communities,” said Moore. “Water utilities, state water agencies, and planning departments should consider job quality, training, and targeted hiring as an integral component of sustainable water project design and implementation.”
Federal mandates that require water improvements and promote green strategies – such as the recent stormwater guidelines and green reserve programs in State Revolving Funds – work to meet anticipated water resource needs in ways that improve, rather than ignore, social equity, ecological conditions, and long-term sustainability of human-ecological systems. They also make labor demand more predictable and allow for more effective planning of green jobs programs.
“There is great potential for partnerships between labor, business, water experts, community organizations, and policy makers to design projects and policy that are a win-win for jobs and for water improvements,” said Moore. “Such partnerships can align worker training and certification with industry and community needs and design policy that maximizes creation of high quality jobs.”
The report Sustainable Water Jobs: A National Assessment of Water-Related Green Job Opportunities can be downloaded free of charge from the Pacific Institute website at www.pacinst.org/reports/sustainable water jobs. There are also six individual case studies of organizations that provide training and employment in sustainable water jobs, in Altadena, CA; Bronx, NY; New Orleans, LA; Santa Fe, NM; and two in Portland, OR – and a short video highlighting these organizations.
About Pacific Institute
The Pacific Institute, based in Oakland, California, is a nonpartisan research institute that works to create a healthier planet and sustainable communities. Through interdisciplinary research and partnering with stakeholders, the Institute produces solutions that advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity – in California, nationally, and internationally. For more information, visit www.pacinst.org.
SOURCE: Pacific Institute