The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

WATR program eases drought in water industry workforce

Careers in the water industry are in high demand and a program at A&M-San Antonio is dedicated to students’ employability in this field.

The The Water Resources Science and Technology Program, WATR, is Texas A&M University System’s answer to preparing the next generation of water and wastewater careers to avoid a workforce gap.

Texas has recently seen an influx of population and economic growth, making water infrastructure essential.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there are about 10,500 projected job openings in water and wastewater industries annually. 

WATR trains and certifies college-level graduates to become licensed, workforce-ready individuals in the water industry. 

The program is led by Dr. Walter Den, professor and program coordinator of water resources science and technology.

A&M-San Antonio began participating in the interdisciplinary program in 2019 by offering three degrees — Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts and Science and a Master of Science.

“The program is a combination of biology, chemistry and a little bit of engineering,” Den said of the in-depth coursework and upper-division focused program. “And a little bit of business management.”

WATR is supporting high-achieving students from underserved communities with a STEM scholarship program funded by the National Science Foundation. WATR launched its scholarship program in March 2021 for 10 students.

The program plans to award 11 students with scholarships totaling half a million dollars each year for the next five years. 

“There is going to be a huge workforce gap in the next 10 to 20 years,” Den said. “Our programs train students the right way to fill this gap.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in May 2021, the median annual salary for water and wastewater system operators in local government was $47,800.

About the Author

Bernadette A. Serna
Bernadette A. Serna is a communication junior, minoring in English at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. She received her Associate of Arts from Northwest Vista College. She currently works as a proposal coordinator in the Space Science and Engineering division at Southwest Research Institute. Bernadette enjoys spending time with her family. Upon graduating, she hopes to continue her career at Southwest Research Institute.

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