California highlights water workforce opportunities during Water Professionals Appreciation Week

(UI) – As California's water, wastewater, irrigation, and regulatory agencies face a wave of retirements, the state's water associations are on a mission to elevate the profile of water-related careers. In recent years, California water agencies have witnessed a significant portion of their workforce retiring, up to 50% of the workforce at several agencies.

During California Water Professionals Appreciation Week, which takes place from October 7 to 15, water associations are spotlighting the dedicated individuals and incredible opportunities that keep California's water systems functioning flawlessly.

“From finance and customer service representatives to mechanics and welders, there are incredible career opportunities at water and sewer agencies in your own backyard,” said Dave Eggerton, Executive Director of ACWA. “Unfortunately, few Californians know about these careers that offer competitive salaries, excellent benefits and the opportunity to make a difference in your community.”

“The State’s reservoirs are replenished, now it’s time we refill the talent pipeline and get more people interested in working for water. We’ve always been here and water workers are essential to life in California,” said Jenn Jones, the Executive Director and CEO of the California Water Environment Association (CWEA).

What are the water workforce challenges?

Numerous studies have revealed California's pipeline of new water workers is drying up, with the aging workforce consistently cited as a top challenge by the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

California’s water workforce is older on average compared to other industries and lacks racial and gender diversity. 37% of the water workforce is over the age of 50, according to a 2023 survey by the Centers of Excellence for Labor Market Research (COE).

80% of the water workforce is male, so California’s water agencies and associations are taking steps to increase gender diversity and encouraging women to apply for frontline operator roles (CWEA).

67% of California water agencies report they are finding it difficult to recruit water and wastewater operators (COE).

A Bay Area water workforce report found there are very few candidates applying for mission-critical roles with hundreds of openings, including: electricians, instrumentation technicians, mechanics, and heavy equipment operators. None of these roles require a college degree (BAYWORK).

What are the benefits of a water career?

Choosing a career in water comes with several compelling advantages:

Better pay: Water jobs pay more and for entry-level workers the water industry pays 50% more than other industries (Brookings)

Full of opportunity: There are 212 different career paths in water, so there’s a career path for every water body (Brookings)

No degree necessary: Several water career paths don’t require a college degree. 53% of water workers have a high school diploma. California’s community colleges can help you quickly prepare for a water career by obtaining an associate’s degree. (Brookings)

Job security: Water is essential to life, which means that water workers are always in demand. You can enjoy job security and stability in an ever-growing industry.

Opportunities for advancement: Agencies and associations provide water workers with opportunities for training and career development, so you can continue to grow and advance in your career.


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