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Water Work

This is a time of transition in water industries and their work forces.  Many senior professionals in water management are nearing retirement, and the industry has articulated a concern about recruiting the best and brightest for a high performing industry.  In certain occupations, such as operation of wastewater treatment plants, there is a “graying” of the work force and a shortage of highly talented young candidates entering the fields.

At this time of opportunity and innovation, we need to entice young professionals to enter this field and stay in the Hudson Valley with such incentives as service learning and community-based training; tuition forgiveness in exchange for long-term commitment to the place and the industry; and portable certifications that allow for global professionals to bring their skills to market in a variety of countries, creating a welcoming hub of innovation here.    To date, while New York’s Energy Research and Development Authority has invested substantially in framing new occupations, with training and certification pathways in the field of energy-efficiency and renewable energy (with national certifying agency partners), no similar, rigorous effort has been made in the arena of water-related capabilities.

The framework for defining water management expertise is, itself, in flux.  A 2007 Battelle study lays out conventional occupational categories in this arena, but omits such important emerging talents as restoration ecology and Geographic Information Systems! These are both scalable fields capable of producing significant numbers of professional and technical jobs, for a region that embraces a more ecologically rigorous and data-driven approach to water management.  The Department of Labor itself is reviewing its framework for defining “green jobs,” giving rise to a moment of opportunity to advocate for the centrality of water protection and restoration industries and assure that they count in proportion to their value.

Occupations in Water Resource Management (Battelle 2007)


Office Clerks, General
Production, Planning, and Expediting Clerks


Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
Secretaries, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks


Civil Engineers
Environmental Scientists and Specialists
Mechanical Engineers
Environmental Engineers
Engineering Managers
Civil Engineering Technicians
Electrical Engineers
Construction and Building Inspectors
General and Operations Managers
Architectural and Civil Drafters
Environmental Science and Protection Technicians
Industrial Engineers
Mechanical Drafters
Architects, Except Landscape and Naval
Accountants and Auditors
Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians
Management Analysts
Commercial and Industrial Designers

Likewise, our needs for water expertise are changing rapidly. Whether due to new science, technology, infrastructure maintenance and replacement, or new environmental awareness and legal requirements, the next decade will see dramatic growth and change in standards for managing water from the perspectives of environmental and economic sustainability, and social equity.   How can we use this challenge to stimulate new outreach, training, and professional development for the water work force?

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