How Water Management Became One of the Most Urgent Needs in Environmental Staffing
While water is second to air as earth’s most precious resource, the need for water management has become more dire than ever. Here are just a couple of statistics for what many are predicting will soon become a crisis over a world-wide shortage of water:
- After intensifying drought and declining levels of reservoirs, farms across the American Southwest are facing the first-ever cuts to their water supply from the Colorado River.
- More than 700 million people in 43 countries are suffering from water scarcity.
- By 2025, it’s estimated that 1.8 billion people face absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be struggling with water-stressed conditions.
- Here in the Upper Midwest, 27% of the area is experiencing a moderate to severe drought, including: 70% of Michigan, 57% of Iowa, 46% of Minnesota, 34% of Wisconsin, and 9% of Illinois.
Global and environmental trends are some of the main factors causing a growing water shortage. But another leading factor is exacerbating the growing global water crisis, an increasing shortage of water and wastewater operators.
A shortage of talent is not a good thing. But at least we have many more capabilities and tools to solve a talent shortage with environmental staffing solutions.
Retirements Driving a Shortage of Water and Wastewater Operators
Back in 2015, a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) report predicted that nearly 66% of drinking water and wastewater operators were approaching retirement age. That rate has likely increased in the following seven years since their report was issued.
Statistically, the increasing retirements among water and wastewater operators are enough to cause alarm. But environmental organizations are losing much more than just employees. As older generations retire, they take with them years of experience and industry know-how that can be extremely difficult to replace.
These can be the hard-to-define nuances of the job and problems water operators may face and which seasoned workers are the most equipped to address and solve. Often the best strategy to capture that experiential knowledge is to have outgoing water operators take an active role in training new hires that will eventually replace them. That means hiring faster than ever before.
But what if there’s little or no talent?
Long-Term Solutions Are a Start, But Aren’t Enough
The DEP recognizes there is a pressing shortage of talent. To combat the shortage, the DEP has been working with colleges and universities to create more accredited certification programs and make training programs more accessible to people interested in the field of water and wastewater treatment.
From 2006 to 2016, the number of DEP-approved courses nearly doubled from 1,508 to 3,012 programs, and not a moment too soon. These certification programs are needed more urgently than ever, so it’s timely that the DEP and other environmental organizations are taking this vital and proactive step.
But even the increase in these certification programs and access to training haven’t done enough to offset the increasing rate of retiring water operators. For example, in that same ten-year period, 2006-2016, licensed operators in some states dropped 17%—from 10,052 operators in 2006 to 8,344 in 2016.
It is proving impossible to catch up to the retirement rate of older operators. One of the main reasons we should not depend solely on certification programs to solve the talent shortage is because the results of these programs are long-term and won’t take effect for many years. But environmental agencies need an immediate solution to the talent shortage today.
RHM’s Environmental Staffing Experts Can Help!
If water is the world’s second most valuable resource, then in our opinion, water and wastewater operators are some of the most valuable talent.
Without treatment from a strong workforce of trained water and wastewater operators, useable water may prove inaccessible, further deepening the world environmental crisis.
For years, we’ve been building RHM to be the most effective, timely, and trustworthy staffing agency in not just environmental staffing but several other sectors. If you need immediate access to the most talented and knowledgeable water or wastewater operators, contact RHM today!