Promise of Green Jobs, Social Equity in Sustainable Water Investments

Credit: Pacific Institute
Credit: Pacific Institute

Enhancing the sustainability of U.S. water resources is an increasingly pressing challenge facing urban, suburban and rural communities across the U.S. Crafting and carrying out sustainable water strategies can create substantial numbers of green jobs in a wide range of professions and address the issue of social inequity, as well as problems associated with drought, flooding, and water contamination, according to a new report from the Pacific Institute.

In Sustainable Water Jobs: A National Assessment of Water-Related Green Jobs, Pacific Institute researchers identify “136 different kinds of jobs involved in implmenting sustainable water strategies, from plumbers to landscapers, engineers to water irrigation specialists.”

“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,” the Pacific Institute’s Eli Moore was quoted in a press release. “Such partnerships can align worker training and certification with industry and community needs and design policy that maximizes creation of high quality jobs.”

Sustainable water, green jobs and social equity

The Pacific Institute study determined that 10-15 jobs are created by investing $1 million in alternative water supply projects; 5-20 new green jobs are created from a $1 million investment in storm water management; 12-22 jobs by investing same in urban conservation and efficiency; 14.6 jobs from agricultural efficiency and quality; and 10-72 new green jobs from a $1 million investment in restoration and remediation.

Also well worth noting among the report’s conclusions is the potential impact of sustainable water partnerships and investments on the wide range of green job opportunities that can be created, investments that can address what’s become a particularly troubling issue in the U.S.: socioeconomic equity.

“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,” Moore elaborated. “However, the occupations with median wages below the national median demonstrate that measures to improve job quality must also be a priority.”

“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,” he continued. “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 storm water 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,” the report authors conclude.

Included in the Pacific Institute’s report are six case studies of organizations that are providing training and employment in sustainable water:

Amigos de Rios in Altadena, CA
Groundwork Portland in Portland, OR
Limitless Vistas in New Orleans, LA
Sustainable South Bronx in Bronx, NY
Verde in Portland, OR
YouthWorks in Santa Fe, NM

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email:

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