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Water and Wastewater Operator

Water and wastewater operators monitor and operate control systems and equipment in water and wastewater treatment plants, and water distribution and wastewater collection systems.

  • Avg. Salary $64,039.00
  • Avg. Wage $31.29
  • Minimum Education High school diploma
  • Outlook N/A
Also Known As

Biological Sciences Technician/Technologist, Environmental Technician/Technologist

NOC & Interest Codes
The Water and Wastewater Operator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Water Plant Operators
NOC code: 9424.1
OBJECTIVE

Interest in controlling systems and equipment to regulate the treatment and distribution of water; in performing minor maintenance or assisting skilled tradespersons with installations and repairs of plant machinery; and in measuring, mixing and transporting chemicals to maintain feed stocks

INNOVATIVE

Interest in analyzing test results and instrument readings; and in making adjustments to systems and equipment as required

METHODICAL

Interest in collecting and testing water samples for chemical and bacterial content, and in maintaining plant logs and reports; and in performing security checks in plants and on grounds

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Waste Plant Operators
NOC code: 9424.2
OBJECTIVE

Interest in controlling systems and equipment to regulate flow of sewage through settling, aeration and digestion tanks, and to treat and dispose of sewage wastes; and in performing minor maintenance, or assisting skilled tradespersons with installations and repairs of plant machinery

INNOVATIVE

Interest in analyzing test results and instrument readings; and in making adjustments to systems and equipment as required

METHODICAL

Interest in collecting and testing waste and sewage samples, in maintaining plant logs and reports, and in performing security checks in plants and on grounds

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Mar 09, 2016

Water treatment plant operators control the processes and equipment used to treat and disinfect surface or well water for human consumption.

Wastewater treatment plant operators control the processes and equipment used to treat and dispose of municipal and industrial wastewater.

Water distribution system operators install, operate, repair and maintain water distribution lines, service connections valves and hydrants.

Wastewater collection system operators install, operate, repair and maintain wastewater collection sewers, service connections, manholes and pump or lift stations.

Duties and responsibilities vary depending on the size and complexity of the facility but, in general, water and wastewater operators:

  • read and interpret meters, gauges and other sensing devices to monitor plant operation
  • adjust controls to regulate flow coming into the plant and monitor its progress through various processes in the plant
  • operate pumps, valves, equipment and chemical feeding systems
  • test and adjust chemical feed rates to ensure quality for disinfection, taste, odour and suppressants
  • take samples of the water or wastewater
  • perform routine laboratory tests and interpret results
  • keep detailed daily records of chemical test results, readings and changes in plant operation
  • provide input into annual operating budgets
  • prepare monthly and annual reports
  • develop and maintain lists of potential contractors
  • maintain stock of essential spare parts
  • operate computer data acquisition and data control and alarm systems
  • ensure that water or wastewater meets Alberta Environment and Parks standards at all times.

They also may:

  • maintain equipment and make minor repairs to valves, pumps or other equipment
  • deal directly with the public regarding water quality complaints and emergencies
  • investigate taste and odour complaints
  • monitor truck dump sites which may involve sampling and interpreting lab analyses for approval to discharge
  • operate sludge handling systems
  • monitor and make adjustments to biological processes.

In larger plants, water and wastewater operators usually are assigned to a particular treatment area or process area. In small plants, they may operate water distribution and wastewater collection systems as well as treatment systems. In small towns or villages, they also may be responsible for water and sewer line repair and street maintenance which may involve pick and shovel work or operating machines such as pneumatic jack hammers, graders and backhoes.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 09, 2016

Water and wastewater operators work indoors and outdoors. The working environment can be dirty, cold, hot or noisy. At times, chemicals and wastewater plants may emit unpleasant odours. Safety precautions are required to reduce the risk of injury from working with dangerous gases, open tanks, electrical equipment, chemicals, confined spaces and slippery walkways. Operators may be required to lift bags of chemicals weighing up to 20 kilograms.

Since facilities generally operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, operators may work shifts that include weekends and holidays. Overtime may be required during spring run off or for emergencies such as flooding or equipment failure.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 09, 2016

Water and wastewater operators need the following characteristics:

  • good hearing, eyesight and colour vision
  • good health and stamina
  • the ability to climb ladders, lift, bend and work in awkward positions
  • manual dexterity
  • mechanical aptitude
  • good arithmetic skills for calculations using formulas, percentages and ratios
  • good oral and written communication skills
  • a responsible, conscientious attitude.

They should enjoy using tools and instruments to control systems and equipment, analyzing test results and instrument readings, and taking a methodical approach to collecting and analyzing samples.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 09, 2016

Most employers prefer to hire applicants who have all of the following:

  1. Alberta Environment and Parks certification 
  2. related post-secondary courses in chemistry, hydraulics, instrumentation and computers
  3. a valid Alberta driver's license.

There are five levels of certification for water and wastewater system operators in Alberta: small systems, level one, level two, level three and level four. Each level has different education, work experience and examination requirements. For example, level one certification requires: (1) a high school diploma, (2) one year of related experience, and (3) successful completion of a training course and exam. Post-secondary education or equivalent is required for level three and four certification. For more information, see Alberta Environment and Park's Facility operator certification webpage.

The following program has been approved by Alberta Environment and Parks:


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Thompson Rivers University

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 09, 2016

Water and Wastewater Operator

Water and wastewater operators monitor and operate control systems and equipment in water and wastewater treatment plants, and water distribution and wastewater collection systems. For more information, see the Water and Wastewater Operator occupational profile in OCCinfo.

Legislation

Under Alberta's Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, Potable Water Regulation and Wastewater and Storm Drainage (Ministerial) Regulation, water and wastewater systems must be supervised by operators who are certified by Alberta Environment and Parks. The approval or registration for each facility specifies operator requirements.

What You Need

There are five certification levels for water and wastewater system operators: small systems, level one, level two, level three and level four. Each level has different education, work experience and examination requirements. For example, level one certification requires: (1) a high school diploma, (2) one year of related experience, and (3) successful completion of a training course and exam. Post-secondary education or equivalent is required for level three and four certification. For detailed, official information, see Alberta Environment and Park's Facility operator certification webpage or contact Alberta Environment and Parks.

Working in Alberta

Water and wastewater facility operators who are certified by and in good standing with a regulatory organization elsewhere in Canada may be eligible for certification in Alberta if certified operators in the two jurisdictions have similar responsibilities and competencies. For more information, see "What if I am already certified in another province or territory?" and the Alberta regulatory authority (below).

Contact Details

Alberta Environment and Parks
10th Floor, Oxbridge Place
9820 - 106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T5K 2J6
Phone number: 780-427-7713
Toll-free phone number (within Alberta): 310-0000
Fax number: 780-427-5204
Website: aep.alberta.ca

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 09, 2016

Most water and wastewater operators are employed by municipal governments. Others are employed by:

  • regional water or wastewater boards
  • the federal government (for example, in the Canadian Forces)
  • private utility companies
  • large industrial plants
  • provincial parks
  • engineering consulting firms
  • operator training services.

Some operators contract their services to several small communities.

Operators in small towns may be employed part time or have additional responsibilities. They may require certification by Alberta Environment for water treatment, wastewater treatment, water distribution and wastewater collection.

Advancement to supervisory positions generally requires certification. The level of certification required depends on the size and complexity of the facility. For example, supervisors at village treatment plants may need a level one certificate; senior supervisors at large city facilities may need a level four certificate. Advancement to management positions in large facilities may require additional post-secondary education.

Water and wastewater operators are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 9243: Water and Waste Treatment Plant Operators. In Alberta, 84% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 09, 2016

Hourly wages for treatment plant operators vary depending on the size of the facility and the certification levels required.

Water and wastewater operators are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 9243: Water and waste treatment plant operators.

According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Water and waste treatment plant operators occupational group earned on average from $27.20 to $35.25 an hour. The overall average wage was $31.29 an hour. For more information, see the Water and waste treatment plant operators wage profile.

Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
  • Trades, Manufacturing and Transportation
    • Fabrication
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Engineering and Science Technologies
  • Trades, Industrial and Related Training
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 09, 2016

Alberta Environment and Parks website: www.aep.alberta.ca

Alberta Water and Wastewater Operators Association website: www.awwoa.ab.ca

Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) Canada website: www.eco.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated May 01, 2009. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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