By Charles Hallman
Water is essential as both a source of energy production as well as a through treatment and distribution. According to a 2011 Green for All report, water shortages in the next five years are predicted in at least 36 U.S. states. And each year 250,000 water mains break in this country due to crumbling water infrastructure, which costs an estimated $2.6 billion dollars annually and wastes almost two trillion gallons of water.
Also, 20 million Americans get sick each year from drinking contaminated water due to untreated waste, and clean drinking water supplies “are at risk of contamination and creeping privatization.” Improving America’s water infrastructure include addressing specific problems such as “polluted runoff,” continues the report.
This water flows into gutters from roofs or from concrete surfaces that prevent rainwater from going into the ground and instead goes into sewer systems or directly back into rivers, lakes and streams. It also can accumulate pollutants such as oil and salts.
Communities and individuals can help by using efficient water appliances, planting gardens to absorb water and installing “rainwater catchment systems,” states Green for All in documentation. Kheprw Institute Executive Director Imhotep Adisa says his group is involved in stormwater management by rehabbing oil barrels to collect rainwater in Indianapolis.
“We work primarily with young people. They meet weekly and learn how to enterprise,” Adisa explains. “The rain barrel project comes out of another initiative that we launched from [a local] grant.” Kheprw also partners with a local “broader organization which potentially creates and grows jobs,” states Adisa.
The Green for All report also predicts that nearly two million jobs are needed in the next five years to manage and preserve water quality across the country, including nearly 6,000 such jobs in Minnesota, many requiring only a high school diploma while other jobs, such as water and liquid waste treatment plant and system operators, only require vocational school, related on-the-job training, or a two-year associate degree.
“Infrastructure investments create over 16 percent more jobs dollar-for-dollar than a payroll tax holiday,” states the report, “nearly 40 percent more jobs than an across-the-board tax cut, and over five times as many jobs as temporary business tax cuts.” The report recommends that U.S. cities adopt strategies “to capture rainwater, planting green space to absorb water, recycling and reusing water and upgrading our old leaky pipes.”
The report also states that investing in water infrastructure “with an economic development strategy” would create water-related jobs for Blacks, women and other people of color who are under-represented in such jobs as manufacturing water conservation products and water infrastructure installation.
“While I understand the importance of job creation, I really want to stay with the idea of building capital,” says Adisa.
“Creating good green jobs in the water sector that reduce both pollution and poverty…can, and should, be a national priority,” concludes the report.
“It impacts all of us,” believes Adisa.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to [email protected]