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The Business of Infrastructure: Water Resource Occupations

This post was written by Lynn Weinstein a Business Reference Librarian in the Science, Technology, and Business Division.

The bipartisan $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P.L. 117-58), signed into law on November 15, 2021, marks the largest commitment to investments in U.S. water infrastructure since around World War II.  Water has far reaching impacts for our population, agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, energy production, navigation, tourism, and the job market. The quality of our water is protected by two U.S. Congressional acts that were passed in the early 1970s in an effort to protect water sources: The Clean Water Act of 1972 (P.L. 92-500), and the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act (P.L. 93-523).

The eight-year public-projects infrastructure bill includes $55 billion for clean water projects aimed at upgrading aging systems, including $15 billion for lead pipe remediation. The bill supports $4 billion in investments in technologies that detect and manage emerging contaminants. Additionally, $9 billion will be allocated to reduce lead in disadvantaged communities, as minority, low income, and indigenous populations are often disproportionately affected by water resource problems that often have negative public health consequences. The allocation of these funds will create a variety of job opportunities.

Water resource occupations have been described in vocational books as Dream Jobs in Green and Sustainable Living as well as the tongue-in-cheek Disgusting Water and Sewage Jobs. The types of employment opportunities that could be created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act include: construction equipment operators, welders, concrete workers, plumbers and pipefitters, occupational health and safety specialists and  technicians, waste and wastewater plant operators, civil engineers, cybersecurity specialists, and managers. The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations and the Occupational Outlook Handbook provides project employment rates, typical wages, and the employment and experience required. Most skilled vocations, such as plumbers and pipefitters, are learned on the job through an apprenticeship, or through training received in vocational-technical schools. Occupational profiles at CareerOne Stop provide information on the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for various occupations.  Each state develops occupational employment projections based on Labor Market Information (LMI), and this information is available on state websites.

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Large crane scooping up earth to dig a canal.

All-American Canal under construction, Imperial County, California. Photo: Dorothea Lange, January 1938. Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection. Library of Congress.

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