When asked what is the biggest problem facing the country, people cited jobs more than other hot-button issues like taxes, immigration, and terrorism, according to a recent Gallup poll. People want to know meaningful and attainable work is available. The challenge though, as we’ve seen in the past few decades, is predicting which jobs will be relevant over time.
Clean water, however, is a basic human need. It’s irreplaceable, and it meets a multitude of demands. And our water supply is a closed system, meaning the water we use today is the same water that’s been on the Earth for billions of years. We can’t create more, so we need to clean water for endless reuse. And we use a lot. On average, each of us use 100 gallons of water each day.
Most people don’t give a second thought as to where their water came from or where it goes when they’re done with it. And that’s because there is a team of individuals working every hour of every day to make sure your water and sewer service is uninterrupted.
These men and women are technicians, scientists, engineers – and so many other professions who provide a vital public health service to our everyday lives. This is remarkably important, not just for the reliability and safety of your water service, but also for protecting and enhancing the environment. Prior to modern day wastewater treatment, many cities including Alexandria, simply dumped their sewage into local waterways. It’s not hard to imagine the public health crisis this created.
Through the work of thousands of wastewater professionals, our streams and rivers are in significantly better shape today. Earlier this year the Potomac Conservatory, which issues an annual report card of the river’s health, graded the Potomac a B-, its highest grade ever. Last month, the Chesapeake Bay achieved its highest annual score since 1992 from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
Water jobs also benefit the economy. A large number of positions in the water sector are middle-skills jobs. A recent USA Today article notes middle-skills positions are expected to account for 37 percent of all new jobs, with the DC metro area slated to be among the biggest creators of these jobs. On top of that, every job created for the water sector helps add another 3.68 jobs to the national economy, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Drinking water and wastewater professionals give peace of mind that water will come and go from your home without issue; that your favorite streams, rivers, and bays remain healthy for future generations; and that meaningful work will continue to be a reality for thousands of individuals across the country.
The Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Alexandria issued a proclamation declaring June 30 Drinking Water and Wastewater Professionals Appreciation Day. For all of these reasons and so many more, I’m incredibly proud to work with dedicated professionals who provide a critical public service, no matter the day or hour. I hope next time you turn your faucet or send water down the drain, you’ll stop and think of the team of workers who make it possible.