Upgrade water system, create nearly 1.9 million jobs

December 2011, Vol. 66 No. 12

Want to create nearly 1.9 million American jobs and add $265 billion to the economy? Upgrade our water and wastewater infrastructure. That’s the message of a new report released by Green For All, in partnership with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute and the Pacific Institute. The Rockefeller Foundation generously provided funding for the project.

Every year, sewage overflows dump 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage into the United States’ water systems – enough to cover the entire state of Pennsylvania with waste one-inch deep. But investment in the nation’s infrastructure to handle stormwater and wastewater has lagged, falling by one-third since its 1975 peak.

The report, Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment, looks at an investment of $188.4 billion in water infrastructure – the amount the EPA indicates would be required to manage stormwater and preserve water quality. That investment would inject a quarter of a trillion dollars into the economy, create nearly 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs in related sectors and result in 568,000 additional jobs from increased spending.

Further, the report notes that this is the best moment to make the investment. With the recession creating a shortfall of 11.1 million jobs that would be needed to keep pace with the population and 9.1 percent unemployment, these are jobs that are critically needed. Moreover, the cost of financing these essential upgrades is at historic lows, and the still-struggling economy means much cheaper construction costs. Investing in green infrastructure approaches that more closely mimic natural systems is part of the solution – and further provides the additional benefits of reducing pollution of creeks and other waterways, saving energy, and increasing green space in urban areas.

The full report is available at http://www.greenforall.org/resources/water-works.