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Green Jobs in Water Resource Management

Nothing is more essential to a healthy, sustainable environment and community than water. As such, anyone considering a green career transition should consider water resource management. Water is both one of the most abundant resources on earth (covering 71 percent of its surface) and one of the scarcest (in the form of drinking water). An eco-conscious job search will reveal many different opportunities in managing this resource — as many possibilities in a career as there are uses for water itself.

Water resource management consists of the following components:

  • Treating water for end use

  • Distributing water through irrigation

  • Managing flood waters

  • Water conservation

Much of the U.S. water system was built in response to the population boom after World War II. As a result, the water mains, pipes, pumps, and water treatment plants are now showing their age. Although our water infrastructure isn’t in dire straits at the moment, that situation is just a matter of time unless we create a strategic plan to update the system and finance the work. The EPA advocates the Sustainable Infrastructure Initiative to help local water utilities plan for repairs and enhancements over time.

Future trends in water resource management

To ensure that local and regional water utilities have the tools, knowledge, and support they need to implement changes to their infrastructure, the EPA joined with six water associations to create “Ten Attributes of Effectively Managed Water Sector Utilities.” By laying out best practices for the nation’s water utilities, local organizations can focus their efforts on working with industry on conservation measures, building their capacity to provide adequate supplies of drinking water, and finding energy efficient ways to process water.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 gave the EPA regulatory methods to clean local waterways. The Water Quality Act in 1987 bolstered that toolkit. Then Supreme Court decisions weakened the water protection system significantly. The proposed Clean Water Restoration Act of 2009, making its way through Congress at this writing, means to restore the strength of the original laws.

Existing and anticipated water shortages, both locally and globally, are inspiring water resource managers to look at innovative ways to meet the demand for water for various uses:

  • The EPA is encouraging local governments to explore the natural watersheds in their regions to discover ways to repair or restore the natural flow of water. Although natural watershed areas may cross state or local district boundaries, it’s essential to develop partnerships to work together to enhance this water delivery option.

  • Water reclamation (also known as water recycling and water reuse) systems are being built to treat waste water such that it can then be used for irrigation, industrial uses, landscaping, flushing toilets, and a variety of other uses. Some municipalities are actually creating potable or drinkable water from their waste water. Although not palatable to many of us who are unaccustomed to this notion, water has been reclaimed in this manner by Israel, Jordan, and Australia for some time. Arizona, Texas, Virginia, and Florida commonly add treated water to their underground water reserves that are used for drinking water.

  • Desalination or desalinization aims to produce fresh water from salt water. It’s expensive and energy intensive, so researchers are on the hunt for technology that will enable salt to be removed from salt water. Plants currently exist in Tampa Bay, Florida, and the United Arab Emirates.

Water conservation by residents, and more important, industrial users, is a key component of any water management plan. When industrial manufacturers rethink their processes, install sensors, and eliminate waste streams, massive amounts of water are conserved for other use. As companies face this issue, they are likely to rely on water management experts to determine the best way to minimize water use in their plants. Is that where you come in?

Job opportunities in water management

Some examples of jobs in water resource management include the following

  • Designing and building water treatment systems: Project manager, civil engineer manager, hydraulic engineer, hydrologist, supervising engineer, hydrogeologist

  • Managing and treating water resources: Water resources director, water resources engineer, water resources analyst, water hygiene consultant, water hygiene engineer, water treatment consultant, water treatment engineer, water sales engineer, district manager, deputy water manager

  • Irrigation: Irrigation engineer, irrigation specialist, irrigation technician, field irrigation manager

  • Forecasting water conditions and taking mitigating action: Waste water network modeler, flood risk modeler, flood risk engineer, river modeler, coastal modeler

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