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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.

  • Avg. Salary $53,216.00
  • Avg. Wage $29.11
  • Minimum Education High school diploma
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Medium
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) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

39%
39%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Provincially Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Interest Codes
The Water and Wastewater Operator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Water Plant Operators
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
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 into the plant, and monitor its 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 and data control and alarm systems
  • ensure water or wastewater meets Alberta Environment and Parks 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
  • 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
  • monitor and provide for water demand management during peak flow periods.

In larger plants, water and wastewater operators are usually assigned to a specific treatment or process areas. 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 jack hammers, graders and backhoes.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 09, 2016

Water and wastewater operators work indoors and outdoors. The work setting can be dirty, cold, hot or noisy. At times, chemicals and wastewater plants emit unpleasant odours. Safety measures are required to reduce the risk of injury from working with dangerous gases, open tanks, electrical equipment, chemicals, confined spaces and slippery walkways. Those working in wastewater settings must keep up to date with their vaccinations (a regulated requirement). Operators may have to lift bags of chemicals weighing up to 20 kilograms. They may work in teams or on their own, depending on the size of the plant.

Since facilities generally operate 24 hours a day, seven 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).

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

Water and wastewater operators need to have:

  • 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 (for calculations using formulas, percentages and ratios)
  • good speaking and writing skills
  • a careful and responsible approach to their work.

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 09, 2016

Most employers either require or prefer to hire people 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 licence.

Depending on the employer, safety training may be required in the areas of frame scaffold certification, fall arrest, hazard assessment, WHMIS, first aid, transportation of dangerous goods, and confined space. An Overhead Crane Operator Training I Certificate may also be required.

There are 5 levels of certification for water and wastewater system operators in Alberta: small systems, and levels 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each level has different education, work experience and examination requirements. For example, level 1 certification requires a high school diploma, 1 year of related experience, and successful completion of a training course and exam. Post-secondary education or equivalent is required for level 3 and 4 certification. For more information, see Alberta Environment and Park’s 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.

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. (above)

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 work for municipal governments. Others work for:

  • 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 work part time or have added responsibilities. They may have to be certified by Alberta Environment and Parks 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 1 certificate; senior supervisors at large city facilities may need a level 4 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 that affect overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities that come up when people leave existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities that come up when new positions are created)
  • 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 waste treatment plant operators

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

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

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.


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 09, 2016

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

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

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

Western Canada Water (WCW) website: wcwwa.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Mar 19, 2018. 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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