A new report from the Brookings Institution provides a detailed and data-driven look at careers in the water sector, finding that while there are looming shortages and a need for diversity in the workforce, water jobs area tremendous economic opportunity for the American worker.

The Water Environment Federation encourages its members to closely review Renewing the Water Workforce: Improving Water Infrastructure and Creating a Pipeline to Opportunity  which was released June 14.

“The report reveals the sizable economic opportunity offered by water jobs, including the variety of occupations found across the country, the equitable wages paid, the lower educational barriers to entry, and the need for more diverse, young talent,” write authors Joe Kane and Adie Tomer of the Brookings Institution.

Kane and Tomer examined occupational employment data and made several key findings:

  • In 2016, nearly 1.7 million workers were directly involved in designing, constructing, operating, and governing U.S. water infrastructure, spanning a variety of industries and regions.
  • Water occupations not only tend to pay more on average compared to all occupations nationally, but also pay up to 50 percent more to workers at lower ends of the income scale.
  • Most water workers have less formal education, including 53 percent having a high school diploma or less. Instead, they require more extensive on-the-job training and familiarity with a variety of tools and technologies.
  • Water workers tend to be older and lack gender and racial diversity in certain occupations; in 2016, nearly 85 percent of them were male and two-thirds were white, pointing to a need for younger, more diverse talent.

“While the Water Environment Federation and our colleagues across the water sector have long been aware of the challenges and opportunities of our workforce, we are grateful that the Brookings Institution produced this timely, detailed report that contains fresh data,” said Eileen O’Neill, WEF Executive Director. “It is imperative on all of us to examine the findings and accelerate our efforts to ensure a sustainable and talented water workforce.”

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This Week in Washington is an online news portal from the Water Environment Federation that provides updates on the latest legislative and regulatory developments that affect the water and wastewater communities. It provides concise reports of related bills, regulations, legal decisions, congressional hearings, and other federal government actions, following key issues from introduction to final determination.

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This Week in Washington is compiled by the WEF Government Affairs department. Please contact us with any questions or comments.

Claudio Ternieden
Senior Director of Government Affairs & Strategic Partnerships

Steve Dye
Legislative Director

Amy Kathman
Government Affairs Specialist