In September, the Water Research Foundation (WRF) and the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) released a new study exploring the effects of water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities on the U.S. economy. Based on the planned operating and capital investments of 30 public utilities, the “National Economic and Labor Impacts of the Water Utility Sector” research project determined that these water sector utilities will contribute approximately $524 billion to the U.S. economy over the next decade and will support roughly 289,000 permanent jobs.
Study results show that investments by utilities generate similar job impacts when compared to investments in clean energy, transportation, and healthcare. Additionally, these investments generate more jobs per $1 million than investments in military spending or personal income tax. The total annual employment impact of the water utility sector exceeds the total workforce of many major cities — such as New Orleans, Miami, and Pittsburgh — and the combined economic contribution by utilities exceeds the gross regional product of metropolitan areas such as Chattanooga, Tenn. and Santa Barbara, Calif.
“Our utility subscribers play a significant role in their respective local communities’ economies and the national economy as a whole,” said Rob Renner, WRF executive director. “This study underscores the valuable economic and labor benefits of investments in water infrastructure.”
Throughout the coming decade, the 30 participating utilities will undertake projects to replace aging infrastructure, improve local water quality, expand services to accommodate increased demand and respond to a number of additional needs. These projects will sustain more than 131,000 jobs over the next 10 years. In addition to the significant number of jobs sustained by the water utility sector, utilities in the study anticipate major workforce replacement hiring needs, with nearly one-third of their existing workforce currently eligible for retirement. The current workforce replacement needs of the water industry sector exceed the nationwide average.
“Investments made by our utility partners generate valuable, stable careers in communities across the nation,” said Larry Jaworski, WERF interim executive director. “Over the next decade, our sector will continue to make significant contributions to local economies and the nation’s economy as a whole.”