The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Pro-gram recently announced a memorandum of understanding to connect veterans with disabilities to career opportunities in the water and wastewater sectors – such as at wastewater plants and drinking water facilities – as part of EPA’s Water Sector Workforce Initiative. This effort will be beneficial to both the environment and economy.

The agreement allows EPA and VA to connect qualified veteran employees with staffing needs at water and wastewater utilities.

EPA and the VA will work with water utilities, states and local VA counselors to promote water-sector careers and resources for finding water jobs for veterans, as well as educational programs to help veterans transition into careers in water industries.

“This agreement comes at the perfect time to address the predicted workforce shortages in the water and wastewater industries, and the need for transitioning veterans into civilian jobs,” says Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “EPA believes that well-trained and experienced water sector professionals are vital to ensuring sustainable, properly operated systems.”

“VA has cultivated relationships with both public and private industry to ensure disabled veterans have opportunities to find and maintain meaningful employment,” says under secretary for benefits Allison Hickey. “We are thrilled to forge this relationship with EPA to assist them with hiring veterans through our Vocation-al Rehabilitation and Employment Program.”

More than one-third of all current water operators are eligible to retire within seven years, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment for water and wastewater operators is expected to grow by 20 percent between 2008 and 2018, faster than the national average for all other occupations. EPA sees the need to invest now in creating a pipeline of future water sector professionals to fill these essential water sector careers.