SEE Careers: Water Careers in the Energy Sector

Why are water and energy relevant?

Water and energy share a unique connection. Creating energy requires water for dams, extracting fossil fuels, and cooling in thermal processes. On the other hand, gaining access to water through extraction, treatment, and distribution to the region’s population requires abundant energy. You can’t have one without the other. Jobs related to energy and water, therefore, become essential. 

What do water careers look like?

Water jobs include those involved with the acquisition, processing, safe distribution, as well as disposal of wastewater. These systems are in constant need of restoration, repair, and maintenance. Everyone from engineers to inspectors are needed to ensure our water is safe. Yet, the number of workers qualified to take on these jobs is dwindling. 

Communities are heavily dependent on the water and wastewater infrastructure of their region. Despite this, most people don’t fully understand how the systems that provide them with water operate. Maintaining the water infrastructure to ensure everything runs smoothly is essential for a functioning society. Without running water, many communities would be in a state of catastrophe. Likewise, the faulty production and distribution of water could result in dangerous consequences. Wastewater treatment, for example, is essential for the proper care of the environment and the health of our communities. Something as small as bacteria, excess nitrogen or lead can create toxic environments and extremely hazardous situations. Water and energy professionals like the ones who work for the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) are constantly working to improve our water infrastructure. Efficiency and safety are some of the top priorities. 

What education background is required? 

The good news is, a four-year college degree isn’t necessarily required to gain well-paying job opportunities. Vocational training and technical trade licenses can take you farther than you’d think. Heather Ginsburg, the Field Education Programs Coordinator at SAWS elaborates, “Women and young people are underrepresented in the skilled trades. We need to work towards promoting the trades as a rewarding career path to young people, and to women – not just as an alternative path we often promote for those that “aren’t quite cut out for college.”  The skilled trades route is a viable and necessary career path as we move towards equity and inclusion in the diverse workforce needed to tackle climate change and make us more resilient.  The trades hold many of the sustainability jobs of the future as we rebuild and re-think the infrastructure of our world.” Earning and entry-level license and then adding to your skill set through experience and additional licensing can be a significant propeller in growing your career. 

What type of career growth and job opportunities do these careers offer? 

Everyone will always need access to water. Improper care of our water systems can be so detrimental that you cannot connect a home or business to any public water system in the state of Texas without a customer service inspection and report completed by a licensed professional before-hand. Due to this, becoming a licensed irrigator, customer service inspector, or backflow prevention assembly tester means there will always be a job for you to pursue. And with each new skill you learn, you can expand your resume and take on different responsibilities. 

Both individuals and corporations are increasingly turning to professionals in the water and energy sector to help them improve their efficiency, save water and save money. Becoming a water conservation consultant, for example, allows you to visit and monitor sites, organize conservation projects, keep up with current legislation, and promote environmental conservation. The knowledge acquired through these positions is so valuable you may even shift to a more educational position to teach others about water infrastructure and efficiency.

How to get started

The first step for someone pursuing a career in water is to determine what route they want to take. If a traditional college degree is your preference, look into organizations that offer tuition reimbursement plans. On the other hand, if college is not for you, there’s no need to worry. Your background will not impede your ability to build a fulfilling career. Apprenticeship programs are available for those who want to take on a skilled trade. State licenses such as a licensed irrigator, customer service inspector, water operator or a backflow prevention and assembly tester can allow you to experience new responsibilities. 

Water and energy will always be a fundamental part of our lives. Understanding our water and energy systems should be a priority for everyone. Hard-working individuals who care about the planet and are interested in improving their community’s health and well-being are essential. For more information on water and energy careers and how to get started, visit Smart Energy Education! And don’t forget to follow the Smart Energy Education Facebook page for updates on all our projects, scholarship opportunities, blog posts and more!