By Pacific Institute Staff
The transition toward more sustainable approaches to managing, delivering, and treating freshwater involves workers in many different sectors of the economy and shifts in markets, occupations, and jobs created. Twenty-first century water challenges require sustainable measures such as low-impact development, water reuse, watershed restoration, water conservation and efficiency, and many other proven and promising practices. There is additional need for major investments in the nation’s aging infrastructure for wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water along with ongoing operation and maintenance to sustain that infrastructure. Our research on job creation and sustainable water management provides information vitally needed to help local, state, and federal agencies; utilities; companies; unions; and nonprofit and community-based organizations adopt strategies that maximize the jobs created with these practices.
A growing body of research points to significant numbers of jobs in diverse occupations associated with sustainable water practices. In our 2013 study, Sustainable Water Jobs, we identified 136 occupations involved in the work of achieving more sustainable water outcomes in agriculture, urban residential and commercial settings, restoration and remediation, alternative water sources, and stormwater management. The number of jobs created by sustainable water practices is substantial. The data available point to 10-15 jobs per $1 million invested in alternative water supplies; 5-20 in stormwater management; 12-22 in urban conservation and efficiency; 14.6 in agricultural efficiency and quality; and 10-72 jobs per $1 million invested in restoration and remediation. This research suggests the growing interest in exploring green jobs in water is well merited.
Our research analyzes the activities, occupations, quality and quantity of jobs, financing, and policies involved in implementing sustainable water strategies with a particular focus on identifying ways to expand employment opportunities for disadvantaged communities.