Thursday, October 17, 2013

Green Job Series: Careers in Water Conservation [First Installment]

Water conservation pertains mostly to fresh water, because it is a limited resource. It helps to ensure that available water supplies are used in the most efficient ways possible. Water conservation focuses on household, municipal, commercial, industrial, and agricultural water use.

Many different types of workers are involved in water conservation. They are employed within various industries, including federal, state, and local governments; utilities; construction; and agriculture, among others. This installment of The Daily Leap's green job series profiles key science occupations in water conservation.

Science Occupations

Scientists who work in water conservation devise technical solutions for reducing water use and develop ways to tap into new sources of fresh water. They plan strategies to conserve water resources and ensure that water is used as efficiently as possible. Scientists are also involved in reducing water use and ensuring that our water is safe. They measure levels of pollution and chemical contamination. Some scientists are involved in preserving water ecosystems and habitats.

Scientists generally work as part of a team that includes other types of scientists, engineers, and science technicians. Science technicians work under the supervision of scientists and assist them in their duties.

Scientists often work in an office or laboratory, and many spend time working outdoors. They may be employed by government agencies, universities, or private companies. Some scientists are hired as advisors for special projects.

Job Duties

Microbiologists work in laboratories studying water samples to ensure that the samples are free of harmful parasites, and that any microorganisms found in the water are not harmful to humans or the natural environment. Microbiologists study these microorganisms and their effects on the environment and human health. They may devise ways to remove harmful microorganisms from our drinking water, or use them clean up pollution.

Water conservationists are conservation scientists who give technical help to people concerned with the conservation of water. They help private landowners and governments by advising on water quality, preserving water supplies, preventing groundwater contamination, and conserving water.

Chemists analyze the chemicals found in water to make sure it is safe for use. They also handle water purification, using chemicals to kill harmful microorganisms and processes to remove harmful chemicals.

Environmental scientists and specialists protect natural water sources from pollutants and other contamination by studying the sources and effects of this pollution and determining ways to clean it up and prevent further pollution. They may also work to reclaim contaminated water by devising ways to clean the water and determining suitable uses for the water after it is cleaned.

Environmental scientists often ensure regulations are followed so that the water is healthy to use and any damage to the environment from water use is minimal.

Hydrologists study water and the water cycle and analyze how they influence the surrounding environment. They study the movement, distribution, and other properties of water and may measure bodies of water, such as volume and stream flow. They may also research how to improve water conservation and preservation.

Some hydrologists use computer models to forecast future water supplies, the spread of pollution, and to find new sources of fresh water. Hydrologists are also vital in evaluating the feasibility of water-related projects, such as hydroelectric power plants, irrigation systems, and waste treatment facilities.

Education and Skills

Most scientists need at least a bachelor’s degree from a program that includes both coursework and laboratory hours. A scientist who is leading a research team or conducting independent research typically needs a master’s or doctoral degree. Hydrologists typically need a master’s degree. It is common for scientists to pursue a specialized degree in a subfield, such as bacteriology or toxicology.

Analytical skills are important for those conducting experiments and determining an outcome or a reasonable way to continue an experiment. Scientists also need oral and written communication skills because they often work as part of a team, and must be able to share the results of their analyses with others. In addition, scientists must be detail-oriented when conducting experiments and recording data.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) currently does not have wage data specific to the water conservation industry. The table that follows shows wages for selected science occupations in May 2012. The wages shown are median annual wages for the United States as a whole; wages vary by employer and location.

Occupation Median annual wage
Microbiologists $66,260
Conservation scientists $61,100
Chemists $71,770
Environmental scientists and specialists, including health $63,570
Hydrologists $75,530

For more detailed information on science occupations in the water conservation industry, follow the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

Next week's water conservation industry series installment: Engineering Occupations.

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