Whether it is deadly Hurricane Sandy that swept through the eastern coast of the United States or the prolonged drought in Texas, there is no doubt that climate change and especially water is an increasingly important topic. President Obama even devoted a large portion of his State of the Union address on climate change talking about the problem. I believe that solving water problems is the first step towards solving climate change as water is not only vital but also a critical part in the energy sector as various energy source such as hydraulic fracturing, nuclear plants, coal mining, and infrastructure development all require large amounts of water.
I had the pleasure of attending the Goldman Sachs, GE Power and Water, and World Resource Institute held a summit on Feb 8th, 2013 on Water Risk and Opportunities. The summit started with David Sunding, Professor of College of Natural Resource at UC Berkeley, talking about the myths of abundance of water in the United States. David said, “Is price of water (in the United States) sustainable? Maybe, but it is not efficient.”
Because of my academic pursuits and career aspiration in the field of corporate sustainability, I’ve decided to focus more on water—especially on how to reuse it, recycle it, and find alternative water sources. The ideal career for such a path would be in private industry, especially in the growing water industry where it is possible to focus on water reuse. Currently various corporations such as GE and xylem all have a major focus on water reuse.
US Congressman William Pascrell of New Jersey has proven through his numerous attempts to pass a water bill (one that would relocate $340M of tax-payer money toward water infrastructure but would potentially attract $643B of private industry investment as well as create 28k jobs), the water industry is an industry that is currently in the shadows. This speaks to the greatest challenge in this industry: successful collaboration between the private sector and government. The two sides have much to gain from collaboration.
My ultimate goal is be involved and help flourish an industry in water reuse in the United States that will eventually lead to federal government involvement. With a diverse group of individuals controlling both water and wastewater sector in the United States, having centralized water regulation is necessary to ensure that all individuals have access to potable water, now and in the future. Countries such as Israel and Saudi Arabia where water reuse is necessary can teach us a lot about the subject. Although the idea of water scarcity in the United States seems outlandish, cases such as the devastating weather and prolong drought are but of signs of what is to come.
It remains to be seen how I will reach this goal. As summer approaches, I will attempt to obtain an internship with a major water reuse company such as GE and work under the experts of the field to gather more knowledge. I will combine my background in chemistry with my knowledge of corporate sustainability and risk management. oikos International and More Than Money Careers can offer an extensive network to aid me in search for such an opportunity. The potential is there, about $634B worth of potential. Water is an area that none can ignore.
By Ta-You Huang
Ta-You Huang is a student at University of Pennsylvania studying for a Master in Environmental Science with a concentration in corporate sustainability and risk management and an active member of oikos Penn.