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Brown and Caldwell collaborates for DE&I advancement in water sector

  • Brown and Caldwell collaborates for &I advancement in water sector
  • Study to identify and amplify methods to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in water utilities.

About the entity

Brown and Caldwell
Brown and Caldwell, Inc. provides environmental engineering, consulting, and construction services serving municipal, private, and federal organizations in the United States.


The Water Research Foundation (WRF) is providing $125,000 in funding to Brown and Caldwell to develop scalable diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) best practices for water sector organizations.

DE&I is a critical and growing need in the water sector as utilities measure the health and well-being of their organizations and workforce while rethinking how they engage with their communities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 8.2 percent of existing water operators will need to be replaced annually between 2016 and 2026 (GAO 2018). Additionally, the water sector tends to be older and lacking diversity, being 85% male, two-thirds white, and having a low share of black and Asian workers employed relative to the national average (Kane & Tomer 2018). In 2018, the median age of water employees was 48, with 30-50 percent of workers eligible to retire in the next 5-10 years (Dickerson & Butler 2018). The data shows the water sector needs to take immediate action to fill the labor gap while ensuring equitable access to opportunities and training.

The Water Research Foundation (WRF) is providing $125,000 in funding to Brown and Caldwell to develop scalable diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) best practices for water sector organizations

Presently, there is little guidance to assist water sector organizations with the completion of DE&I assessments and integration of DE&I considerations into many facets of their organization – including recruiting, career progression, project prioritization, community outreach, and training.

Led by Brown and Caldwell in partnership with several utilities, WRF Project 5186 will provide best practices for the water industry leaders in completing DE&I assessments, increasing awareness of career opportunities across diverse communities, and implementing DE&I objectives in workforce development to attract, train, and retain water workforce talent.

Principal Investigator and Brown and Caldwell Drinking Water Area Practice Lead Katie Porter commented on the importance of advancing DE&I efforts in the water sector: “Water utilities are pivotal to community well-being, yet they face the dual challenge of addressing historical inequities and preparing for a retiring workforce. Statistics indicate an urgent need for action to address current work-force shortages and increase diversity in the sector. This study recognizes the imperative of filling this labor gap while creating equitable opportunities and training for all.”

Following an 18-month research process, the study will culminate in a comprehensive report that will serve as a valuable resource for water sector organizations seeking to enhance their DE&I efforts and create a more inclusive and equitable workforce.

The report will include industry-wide DE&I assessment survey results to gauge the current state. It will consist of a collection of existing DE&I tools and best practices accompanied by case studies from geographically diverse utilities with varying water challenges representing a range of DE&I journeys from infancy to highly structured. Furthermore, the report will provide recommendations for scaling practices and actions depending on where a utility is on the DE&I maturity curve and how to embed DE&I throughout operations.

Once complete, the report will be disseminated to the water sector via conference presentations, webinars, fact sheets, and various outreach materials.

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