Jobs Are The Return On Water Infrastructure Investment That America Needs

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – September 26, 2012 – Comment

I’ve mentioned before that investing in water infrastructure is important to keeping our country moving forward in a positive direction. There’s no doubt that it’s an amazing accomplishment that we have such an extensive system in place. In fact, in 2007, a poll by the British Medical Journal found that clean water and sanitation was the most important medical advancement since the mid-1800’s. But America has not been doing the best job of keeping our water infrastructure up to date, and although there are large costs associated with the necessary upgrades, there are also great job opportunities.

The non-profit Green For All, as cited in the EPA’s It’s Our Environment blog, estimates that we need to invest $188.4 billion dollars into our water infrastructure over the next five years to bring us back into the modern world, which would in turn generate $265.6 billion back into our economy. No matter what side of the political arena you’re on, jobs are on everyone’s mind, and the EPA’s numbers translate into around 2 million jobs that fall in many different spectrums.

According to Water For Jobs, ninety percent of these jobs are what we would call “middle class” jobs. This means that the majority of the workforce currently contributing to the high rate of unemployment can be placed into these jobs and succeed. Likewise, the Economic Policy Institute, says that dollar-for-dollar, investing in water infrastructure will create 16 percent more jobs than a payroll tax holiday, a staggering 40 percent more jobs than across-the-board tax cuts, and five times more jobs than temporary business tax cuts.

The best way to solve our water crisis is also sustainable; many cities are investing in green infrastructure. These improvements will be good for our economy, our wallet, and our planet. Washington D.C. has invested $1.9 billion dollars into building 20 million green roofs across the city. Philadelphia has invested $1.6 billion to create over 15 thousand green jobs. Chicago has improved 100 alleyways with permeable pavement and planted over 400,000 trees. Green infrastructure improves water, air, and therefore it improves us.

There is no catch. This is not too good to be true. During the Great Depression, we did not fall down and talk ourselves out of the Depression, we built up. The Golden Gate Bridge went from being an infrastructure project to the shot in the arm we needed to get back into fighting shape. The solution to updating our water infrastructure is good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for our citizens.