Investing in water efficiency and re-use projects will address growing problems associated with drought, flooding and contamination, and create thousands of jobs in a wide range of professions by 2020, according to the Pacific Institute.
The study, Sustainable Water Jobs: A National Assessment of Water-Related Green Job Opportunities identifies 136 different kinds of jobs involved in implementing sustainable water strategies, from plumbers to landscapers, engineers to irrigation specialists. It projects 37 of these job types will have high growth in the overall economy, with each projected to have more than 100,000 job openings by 2020.
Many of these sustainable water occupations 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.
Of the 27 sustainable water occupations, 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.
In addition, the study finds an investment of $1 million in alternative water supply projects yields 10-15 jobs; 5-20 in stormwater management; 12-22 in urban conservation and efficiency; 14.6 in agricultural efficiency and quality; and 10-72 in restoration and remediation (see chart).
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. The report says this is especially concerning given the under-representation of women and people of color working as agricultural managers and general managers — two of the highest-paid occupations that do not require advanced degrees. These jobs are expected to have 235,000 (agricultural managers) and 410,000 (general managers) openings in 2020.
A Bank of America Merrill Lynch global research report published in late 2012 said the global water services industry is on pace to double its annual revenues to $1 trillion by 2020 largely driven by scarcity issues and growing demand for water treatment.