Water scarcity affects every continent and is one of the largest global risks in terms of potential impact over the next decade as the Earth’s population continues to shift towards urbanization, according to World Economic Forum. 97% of the world’s water supply is salt water, while the water found in the Earth’s lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, swamps, accounts for only 0.3 percent of the world’s fresh water. The rest is trapped in glaciers or underneath the ground. Water resource management, recycling and conservation solutions are vital sectors for human health and development.
The significance water plays in employment cannot be overlooked. UNESCO estimates three out of four jobs that make up the global workforce are either heavily or moderately dependent on water. Director-general, Irina Bokova, argues that “water and jobs are inextricably linked on various levels, whether we look at them from an economic, environmental or social perspective”. The cost of producing clean water is also a huge capital expense – in America alone, the investment capital required for the public water system infrastructure to provide the public with safe drinking water until 2030 is estimated at $384bn. This is excluding expenditures on capital projects such as raw-water dams and reservoirs, or projects related to population growth.
This investment in public water systems is necessary due to the aging US infrastructure, primary due to corrosion, as highlighted by the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE). The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that the U.S. needs $4.5tn to fix crumbling infrastructure, including its water management systems.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), projects that global water demand both for consumption and for use in business will increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050 – driving the need for professionals with skills in water resource management. The Water Environment Foundation (WEF) has organized water technology innovation clusters, which are groups of businesses, government, research institutions, and other organizations focused on innovative technologies for clean water, aiming to solve the US’s environmental challenges. In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that general and operational management jobs in the water sector will grow 7.1% by 2024 alone.