A new report, released today by the organization Green for All, advocates investing in America’s water-related infrastructure. That’s nothing new—the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, among others, have long been urging the same thing. What’s different here is the effect the report predicts this investment would have on employment, and how those numbers were calculated.
The report, Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment, promotes the use of green infrastructure as a big part of the proposed investment. It first defines some common low-impact development or green infrastructure terms—rain garden, green roof, bioswale, permeable pavement, and so on—and offers examples of cities, like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Portland, Oregon, that are successfully putting them to use. It also identifies co-benefits of investment in water infrastructure, such as energy savings, economic development, and the reduced health risks that would result if we had fewer CSOs.
Produced by Green for All in partnership with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Pacific Institute, the report takes as a starting point EPA’s estimate of the investment needed to protect water quality and manage stormwater, which is $188.4 billion. If that money were spent over the next five years, say the report’s authors, it would create 1.9 million jobs and generate $265.6 billion in economic activity. The jobs would result from work on infrastructure projects themselves as well as from increased manufacturing to meet the projects’ needs and from increased hiring in other sectors as people working in infrastructure-building and manufacturing spend the money they’re earning.
Water Works includes state-by-state breakdown of the number of jobs that would potentially be created, as well as a list of specific jobs—pipelayers, cement masons, environmental engineers, and others—and the median wage and education required for each. Many require only a high school education and some additional training rather than a college degree.
The report argues that the cost of infrastructure investment is at a historic low because of current low interest rates—incentive to act now rather than wait until the economy recovers. You can read more about the methods the authors used to arrive at their conclusions and decide for yourself whether you agree, but it’s an unusually detailed analysis, and worth a look. The full report is available for download from Green for All’s website.