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Chapter 2, Section 2:
Water Quality Management
Water comes in many forms. Oceans
are distinct saltwater ecological systems. Springs, lakes, creeks, rivers, bogs and swamps make
up surface water, and are among the most sensitive and vulnerable environments. Groundwater is
usually invisible and underground, in aquifers and reservoirs for our wells and springs. These
can be depleted by over-pumping and can become contaminated by surface dumps and spills that
seep into the Earth. Wastewater is human sewage: water we have used to flush away our various
wastes. This water should not be ‘thrown away,’ but can be treated, cleaned, sterilized and
reused, especially in areas where water is scarce. All sources of water are easily polluted
and the protection of this source of life requires constant vigilance. The water quality
management field is divided according to the type and purpose of the water resource management.
Some of the larger categories are described below.
Drinking Water Supply and Treatment:
There are more than 55,000 drinking water systems in the United States. Management and
treatment of these systems includes identification of surface water and groundwater
supplies, extraction and transport the water, purification, regulation of drinking
water standards, operation of treatment facilities, promotion of water conservation
efforts and maintenance of the drinking water supply infrastructure.
Over 16,000 wastewater treatment plants employ professionals throughout the nation.
Professionals in this area include scientists and technicians working at industrial
and municipal wastewater treatment plants, people who design, build, and equip the
plants, chemists and technicians who collect and test water samples and many others.
Groundwater protection professionals identify the misuse or pollution of groundwater,
measure levels of risk to human, plant, and animal health, design computer models to
predict the contamination of pollutants, carry out cleanup and restoration activities
where resources are polluted, and design strategies to prevent groundwater contamination.
Surface Water Management:
Management of surface water resources identifies sources of pollution to lakes, springs,
streams, and rivers and finds ways to reduce or eliminate them. In addition, surface water
managers also work with other environmental professionals to protect water resources for
fish and wildlife habitat, as well as for human use. Irrigation systems that support
agriculture divert wild surface waters, requiring engineers, builders, farmers and very
Wetlands are complex, flourishing ecosystems when allowed to function naturally.
Invading foreign plants can choke springs and streams, displacing indigenous
species that wildlife needs in order to survive. Besides being important habitats
for fish and wildlife, wetlands can moderate flooding and drought and stabilize
human water supplies. This part of the water quality management field includes
wetlands ecologists, surveyors, botanists, fish and wildlife scientists, planners,
chemists, and water quality specialists.
Over 300,000 nationwide
Public sector - 40% (5% federal, 35% state and local)
Private sector - 55%
Nonprofit sector - 5%
Key Job Titles:
- Aquatic Environmental Scientist
- Aquatic Toxicologist
- Civil Engineer
- Wastewater Engineer
- Public Health Officer
- Drinking Water Quality Control Scientist
- Environmental Engineer
- Water Supply and Transport Technician
- Water Quality Specialist
- Watershed Planner
- Risk Analyst
Entry-level salaries range from $18,000 to $35,000 annually. The lower end of the
range represents operators at smaller wastewater systems and the higher end includes
scientists and engineers at larger consulting firms. Maximum salaries range widely
($50,000 to $100,000 and higher) for managers and directors in government and
industry, senior scientists and engineers, consultants, and academics.
Almost a Tribal Resource Manager
Jason McCabe is affiliated with the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the Hopis and Dine'.
He is working on his Master’s Degree in Northern Arizona University’s School of Ecosystem
Science and Management where he is enrolled in the Geography and Public Planning Department.
Jason is impatient to
join in the important work of tribal resource planning. He worries that agriculturally
based tribes in arid environments are not exercising satisfactory planning. He
believes he is qualified to bring some order to the confusion created by disputed
or overlapping jurisdictions.
Jason’s advice to
students is to keep up on their work and to stay focused on their studies.
NAU || EEOP
|| ITEP || AIS
Environmental Education Outreach Program (EEOP)
Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP)
PO Box 5768 Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5768
Phone: (928) 523-1275 Fax: (928) 523-1280
Last updated: May 27, 2005