Two of the most common themes on our Opinions pages are jobs and water.
Today, we put them together, taking note of a study, released last week, that highlights the potential for new jobs associated with better water conservation across the United States.
The report comes from the environment-oriented Pacific Institute, based in Oakland, and its title contains a word, "sustainable," that sets off some in the far right -- but no matter what your political persuasion, you have to recognize that California needs to make the most efficient use of its limited water supply. That's true for rural and urban residents.
"Sustainable Water Jobs, A National Assessment of Water- Related Green Job Opportunities" identifies 136 occupations that could emerge or expand as the country looks to make wiser use of its water, through conservation, recycling, reuse and more.
Most of the job categories already exist -- from engineers to plumbers to landscape architects and landscapers -- but there will be a need for more people in these positions as the country focuses on wiser water use. Clearly, this report was written to promote more public investment in sustainable water projects and more strategies -- in the form of government policies regulations -- to mandate conservation and reuse of water.
We don't disagree with those goals, but also think that the report has value in demonstrating some study and career possibilities for young people, including some occupations that will be in demand right here in the valley, that will have staying power and that cannot be outsourced to another country.
For instance, the agriculture industry has and will have a need for engineers and technicians to develop and maintain sophisticated farm irrigation systems, which will be light years beyond the ditchtender jobs of the past. Agricultural water efficiency and quality is one of five areas that the report examines. The others:
Urban water conservation and efficiency,
Environmental restoration and management, and
Alternative water sources.
What kinds of occupations will be needed? Industrial ecologists, conservation scientists and irrigation designers. Soil scientists. Public relations experts to help consumers learn about conservation. Sales people to market new equipment and services. Home appliance repairmen to upgrade existing appliances to use less water. And so on.
The report does not devote a lot of attention to the most sophisticated levels of water research, but we have some of that going on at the University of California at Merced and its Sierra Nevada Research Institute. And one of the undergraduate majors offered at UC Merced is environmental engineering, one of the occupations listed in the occupation report.
The Pacific Institute study suggests that 37 of the 136 occupations related to water sustainability will have 100,000 or more openings by 2020 and that 28 of those 37 high-demand fields do not require bachelor's or graduate degrees.
We've heard a lot in recent years about green energy jobs. This is a variation on that theme, with the focus on water.
Even if the total job outlook is overly optimistic, the potential is promising, especially for a region such as ours, which depends so heavily on water for our economic base and which surely needs more jobs.
The Pacific Institute report is available at www.pacinst.org.