How To Get Rich Working In Water

How it all started

In 1985 I was offered my first job in the water industry. My new boss welcomed me to the world of water and told me that I would never leave. I remember thinking to myself, “this guy is nuts, how many water systems can I sell?” I figured that job would just be a steppingstone to something more solid.

Thirty plus years later, here I am, still immersed in the water industry!

Important implications

Never in a million years would I have imagined the water industry was so expansive, diverse and challenging. As a newbie, every day of my job emerged as a new lesson, a new tool, and new contacts that only years, maybe decades later would I appreciate their value. Over the years my water jobs changed. Sometimes I made a voluntary change, and other times the change was a result of a firing or business closing/consolidation. Through all of it, through thirty plus years, from the day I started working in water, I was never without a job. Regardless of what happened to me, there was always another great water job waiting, along with a company who needed my skills.

With this being said, I passionately want to impart upon you that there are few vocations as noble, plentiful, and rewarding as the water industry. As it stands, however, most people are oblivious as to the vastness and diversity of the water industry. Job seekers will find no industry more promising or dependable than water industries. The challenges then become,

  • What are these jobs?
  • Where do I find these jobs?
  • What qualifications do I need?
  • Who can help me gain exposure and recognition in this industry?

I hope to answer some of those questions and help those interested find their own career path in water.

Illuminating the water industry

The perception that most people have about working in water comes down to visions of the local water treatment plants, or perhaps the Matt Damon types drilling wells in third-world countries. People are also familiar with the “Culligan Man” type business who installs water softeners, water coolers, and/or under the sink purification systems. I am here to say that these are indeed water jobs, and a person can have a fine and rewarding career in these areas. Typically, the local water plant can tell you how to get certified to be a technician or operator. The individual “Culligan Man” type dealers are always looking for good people and are known to provide training to develop new salespeople and service technicians. The volunteers/non profits who bring water to the world likewise are always looking for new people. Beware that these jobs are not generally well-paying for the entry level worker, but do have opportunities for chemists, biologists and other technical and trades workers.

The industry is much bigger

As we speak, the water technology market generates $350 billion annually. It is expected to grow to $530 billion by 2030. To give you a perspective on how large this industry is, consider that the global market for all pizza restaurants is about $50 billion. The global cruise line market is estimated at around $25 billion. The fitness industry weighs in at about $90 billion, and the running shoe market scores about $15 billion on the money meter. In 2022 the global film industry revenue was $77 billion.

Let’s look at this as a comparison tally.

Pizza stores, sports shoes, Hollywood, fitness and cruise lines all together generate about $257 billion per year. This is roughly $100 billion less than the water industry! Impressed? Well, it is impressive. By the way, this photo is but a part of a multi-million-dollar water system on a cruise ship

So where are these jobs?

  • There are countless water purification companies that provide engineering, sales, and service to the high purity market. This would be water for hospitals, laboratories, drug manufacturers, university labs, the microchip/electronics power generating, and other industries. Did you know that the water required to make steam in a power plant must be ten-times more pure than triple distilled water? Did you know that the water required to prepare and rinse bodies in an automobile manufacturing plant must be ten times purer than the water in your IV bag?

  • There are additional countless water purification companies that provide engineering, sales and service to the general manufacturing industries. These would include but not be limited to automotive, marine, steel, mining, paper, plastics, food, beverage, chemical, petrochemical, and other general manufacturing plants.

  • There are also many companies who provide chemical treatment to industry to manage the water in cooling towers/loops, and in the boiler network. These companies are not focused on making pure water, but instead taming the water that is used to heat and cool the various machines used in production. Most of the machines used in manufactured are akin to a car that requires a radiator to recirculate water and keep the engine cool. These companies also supply chemicals and technology to manage liquid waste by dewatering it and causing certain materials for come together in large clumps that can be recycled and reused.

  • Hallelujah, it gets even better! Many of these companies also have divisions that are focused on treating the wastewater of industries. That treatment doesn’t just include treating it for discharge, but also recycling it for reuse, and recovering valuable material that can be put back into the manufacturing process.

  • The good news hasn’t ended yet! When discussing water purification systems, we touch on the individual components of reverse osmosis, softening, ultraviolet and ozone sanitization, storage tanks, pumps, valves, pipes, plc controllers, ion exchange resin, filter housings, instrumentation, and the many more ingredients that often make up a water treatment system.

What kind of positions do they hire for?

As you might imagine, these companies attract professionals such as chemical engineers, plant managers, maintenance/trades, sales, delivery/shipping, service, safety and custodial workers. Some of the positions are technical and specific, but some are general. The wonderful thing about water technology is that it is not unheard of for the general worker to cross into more technical positions with time, education and hard work. My one-time boss rose to the position of National Sales Manager from a floor sweeper job with a GED. There are always opportunities for advancement with water technology companies. The crucial nature of fixing someone’s water often makes it natural to groom an existing worker rather than bring someone in from the outside. The takeaway here is that water technology companies are one of the best, if not the best places to go to find a stable career opportunity and one that offers growth and learning potential.

Where do I find these employers?

Thankfully, today we have the internet and a few simple keyword searches such as “Industrial Water Treatment Companies”, “Wastewater Treatment Companies” will get you started. Once you have a few targets you can search for their competitors. You can search for Reverse Osmosis/Filtration/Softener/Ozone etc. suppliers and learn who is building these products. Social media offers an endless bounty of contacts and companies to begin your hunt with. If you know someone who works in a plant, a lab, a hospital, power plant or university, a simple, “who supplies your water treatment services?” can yield new possibilities.

One word of advice! Understand the distinction between water treatment, and water purification/pure water. Typically, the guy who does water treatment is involved with the low tech, boiler/cooling towers /solids waste end of the business. The guy who handles water purification is involved with the end use, critical cleaning of the water. If a business has a pure water vendor, they will also have a water treatment guy. These two fellows are often employed by different companies.

I have no experience in water. How can I gain credentials and skills to win one of these jobs?

The good news here is that in addition to the stock answers of get a degree, read books, and knock on doors, there is a more finite way for one to become water educated. The Water Quality Association of America offers a variety of training courses that allows you to gain certification in many different areas of water filtration. These certifications are not going to put you on the level of a chemical engineer, but they will open water opportunities that are above the basic entry level positions that one might be relegated to otherwise. The courses are not inexpensive, but they are valuable, and they will absolutely help you break into the water industry.

You can find them at https://www.wqa.org

My closing thoughts!

Water is an amazing and immensely complicated substance. It is ever changing and is unstable. When you remove one thing, you create a place for something else to contaminate the water. Pure water does not exist anywhere in nature. The moment technology creates pure water, the water begins to absorb impurities and become contaminated. Green, yucky ponds are water’s natural state. Because of this, because of our vital dependance on water, the water industry will always provide jobs for us, and create opportunities for new, innovative minds. If you would like to know more, you can always get a copy of my book, Open Tap – Drink Poison

Tommy V
Tommy V
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