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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, water distribution systems, wastewater collection systems, and storm water conveyance systems.

Also Known As

Biological Sciences Technician / Technologist, Environmental Technician / Technologist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Water Plant Operators (9424.1);  Waste Plant Operators (9424.2) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Water and Waste Plant Operators (J134) 
  • 2011 NOC: Water and waste treatment plant operators (9243) 
  • 2016 NOC: Water and waste treatment plant operators (9243) 
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Water Plant Operators
2006 NOC : 9424.1

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Waste Plant Operators
2006 NOC : 9424.2

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2022

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. In general, water and wastewater operators:

  • Read and interpret meters, gauges, and other sensing devices to monitor plant operation
  • Adjust controls to regulate flow into the plant
  • Monitor the water’s progress through various internal processes
  • 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 lab 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 systems, and data control and alarm systems
  • Ensure water or wastewater meet Government of Alberta standards at all times

They may also:

  • Maintain equipment and make minor repairs to valves, pumps, etc.
  • Deal directly with the public regarding water quality complaints and emergencies
  • Look into taste and odour complaints
  • Operate sludge-handling systems
  • Monitor and adjust biological processes
  • Monitor and provide for water demand management during peak flow periods

Water and wastewater operators may also monitor truck dump sites. This may involve sampling and interpreting lab analyses for approval to discharge.

In larger plants, water and wastewater operators are usually assigned to a specific treatment 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 might also take care of water and sewer line repair and street maintenance. This may involve pick and shovel work or operating machines such as pneumatic jackhammers, graders, and backhoes.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2022
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg

Water and wastewater operators work indoors and outdoors. They may work in teams or on their own, depending on the size of the plant.

Since facilities generally operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, operators may work shifts that include weekends and holidays. They may have to work overtime during spring runoff or for emergencies such as flooding or equipment failure.

Operators in small towns may work part time or have added responsibilities.

The work setting can be dirty, cold, hot, or noisy. At times, chemicals and wastewater plants emit bad odours. Safety measures are required to reduce the risk of injury from working with:

  • Dangerous gases
  • Open tanks
  • Electrical equipment
  • Chemicals
  • Confined spaces
  • Slippery walkways

Operators may have to lift bags of chemicals weighing up to 20 kilograms.

Those working in wastewater settings must keep up to date with their vaccinations (a regulated requirement).

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2022

Water and wastewater operators need:

  • 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 know-how
  • Good math skills
  • Good speaking and writing skills
  • A careful and responsible approach to their work
  • A good work ethic

They should enjoy:

  • Using tools and instruments to control systems and equipment
  • Studying test results and instrument readings
  • Taking a step-by-step approach to collecting and studying samples
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2022
  • Minimum Education High school diploma

Most employers either require or prefer to hire people who have all 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 licence

The Government of Alberta offers 5 levels of certification for water and wastewater system operators:

  • Small Systems
  • Level I
  • Level II
  • Level III
  • Level IV

Each level has different education and work experience requirements. See Certification Requirements below for details.

Small Systems and Level I have mandatory entry-level training requirements:. These programs fulfill this mandatory requirement:

 Employers may require safety training in:

  • Frame scaffold certification
  • Fall arrest
  • Hazard assessment
  • WHMIS
  • First aid
  • Transportation of dangerous goods
  • Confined space
  • Overhead Crane Operator Training I Certificate

Related Education

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

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2022
  • Certification Provincially Regulated

Certain professional titles or duties within this occupation are protected by provincial legislation. Requirements vary if you use these titles or perform these duties.

The related legislation is shown below. If there are multiple related legislations, select a certification heading to learn about each one.

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.

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.

For information on what you need and other details, visit the certification profile Water and Wastewater Operator.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2022

Most water and wastewater operators work for municipal governments. Others work for:

  • Regional water or wastewater boards
  • The federal government (for example, the Canadian Armed Forces)
  • Private utility companies
  • Large industrial plants
  • Provincial parks
  • Engineering consulting firms
  • Operator training services

Some operators contract their services to several small communities.

Advancement to supervisory positions generally requires certification. The level of certification required depends on the size and complexity of the facility. Advancement to management positions in large facilities may require additional post-secondary education.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 9243: Water and waste treatment plant operators occupational group, 77.7% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 9243: Water and waste treatment plant operators occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.5% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 20 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

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

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2022

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

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Water and waste treatment plant operators

2016 NOC : 9243
Average Wage
$29.11
Per Hour
Average Salary
$53,216.00
Per Year
Average Hours
40.2
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
10.2
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 9243 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $17.00 $39.75 $25.55 $23.00
Overall $22.00 $39.87 $29.11 $26.66
Top $25.96 $60.46 $38.67 $34.14

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Utilities
Public Administration
ALL INDUSTRIES
Construction

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
39%
39%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
43%
43%
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
4%
4%
Vacancy Rate
2%
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Engineering and Science Technologies
  • Trades, Industrial and Related Training
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2022

Alberta Environment and Parks website:  www.alberta.ca/environment-and-parks

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

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

Western Canada Water (WCW) website: www.wcwwa.ca

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2022. 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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