WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Greg Stanton today introduced a bill that would help grow an in-demand sector of Arizona’s workforce: wastewater management workers. The municipal drinking water, wastewater and stormwater management sector is facing extremely high turnover rates without enough skilled workers to replace them. Stanton’s bill aims to shrink that gap in Arizona. 

“We’re achieving two important goals with this bill—upskilling our workforce so we can fill critical jobs, and planning for Arizona’s water future,” said Rep. Greg Stanton. “Arizona’s economy relies on effective and well managed wastewater treatment and stormwater management programs. Simply put, we need more skilled workers to make sure our systems are operated properly to protect public health and our environment.”

Stanton’s bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to report to Congress on the workforce needs for publicly owned treatment works, including the number of future positions and technical skills needed. Additionally, it would allow states to reserve up to one percent of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) dollars it receives each year from the federal government to be used for workforce development, training and retraining activities. 

In fiscal year 2019, Arizona received nearly $11 million in Clean Water SRF dollars from the EPA. Stanton’s bill would allow the state to reserve approximately $100,000 each fiscal year for workforce development in the sector. 

“In Phoenix, I witnessed first-hand the value of development and training programs to get our residents equipped with the skills they need to secure quality jobs,” said the former Phoenix mayor. “These public works jobs are in every city and county in Arizona and across the nation—these are long-term career positions that offer employees and families excellent healthcare and retirement benefits.”

The high rate of retirement and aging workforce in the sector are placing pressure on utilities throughout the U.S. to find the next generation of workers to replace them. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be an estimated 75,000 to 80,000 jobs available within utilities over the next six years—jobs that cannot be outsourced and are largely immune to economic downturns. These STEM jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree and pay family-sustaining wages. 

Stanton’s bill could have an especially significant impact on rural Arizona communities, which use Clean Water SRF dollars for critical wastewater infrastructure projects but lack the local workforce needed to operate them. 

For example, the City of Eloy received an SRF loan of nearly $1 million for a lift station and wastewater treatment facility improvements. Lake Havasu City received more than $60 million that financed the construction of a regional water treatment facility. Douglas received $1.5 million to help implement an automated meter reading solution. Each of these projects—and numerous others like them—require full time technicians and treatment managers to operate. Stanton hopes that these municipalities can take advantage of the workforce development dollars to strengthen the local pipeline into this in-demand field.