Find The Best Water Operator Jobs For You

Where do you want to work?

0 selections

Working as a Water Operator

What Does a Water Operator Do

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators manage a system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater.

Duties

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators typically do the following:

  • Add chemicals, such as ammonia or chlorine, to disinfect water or other liquids
  • Inspect equipment on a regular basis
  • Monitor operating conditions, meters, and gauges
  • Collect and test water and sewage samples
  • Record meter and gauge readings and operational data
  • Operate equipment to purify and clarify water or to process or dispose of sewage
  • Clean and maintain equipment, tanks, filter beds, and other work areas
  • Follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations
  • Ensure safety standards are met

It takes a lot of work to get water from natural sources—reservoirs, streams, and groundwater—into people’s taps. Similarly, it is a complicated process to convert the wastewater from drains and sewers into a form that is safe to release into the environment.

The specific duties of plant operators depend on the type and size of the plant. In a small plant, one operator may be responsible for maintaining all of the systems. In large plants, multiple operators work the same shifts and are more specialized in their duties, often relying on computerized systems to help them monitor plant processes.

Water treatment plant and system operators work in water treatment plants. Fresh water is pumped from wells, rivers, streams, or reservoirs to water treatment plants, where it is treated and distributed to customers. Water treatment plant and system operators run the equipment, control the processes, and monitor the plants that treat water to make it safe to drink.

Wastewater treatment plant and system operators do similar work to remove pollutants from domestic and industrial waste. Used water, also known as wastewater, travels through sewer pipes to treatment plants where it is treated and either returned to streams, rivers, and oceans, or used for irrigation.

How To Become a Water Operator

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators typically need a high school diploma and a license to work. They also typically undergo on-the-job training.

Education

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators need a high school diploma or equivalent to become operators. Employers may prefer applicants who have completed a certificate or an associate’s degree program in a related field such as environmental science or wastewater treatment technology, as it reduces the amount of training a worker will need. These programs are generally offered at community colleges, technical schools, and trade associations.

Training

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators need long-term on-the-job training to become fully qualified. Trainees usually start as attendants or operators-in-training and learn their skills on the job under the direction of an experienced operator. The trainees learn by observing and doing routine tasks, such as recording meter readings, taking samples of wastewater and sludge, and performing simple maintenance and repair work on plant equipment.

Larger treatment plants usually combine this on-the-job training with formal classroom or self-paced study programs. As plants get larger and more complicated, operators need more skills before they are allowed to work without supervision.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must be licensed by the state in which they work. Requirements and standards vary widely depending on the state.

State licenses typically have multiple levels, which indicate the operator's experience and training. Although some states will honor licenses from other states, operators who move from one state to another may need to take a new set of exams to become licensed in their new state.

Advancement

Most states have multiple levels of licenses for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators. Each increase in license level allows the operator to control a larger plant and more complicated processes without supervision.

At the largest plants, operators who have the highest license level work as shift supervisors and may be in charge of large teams of operators.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must conduct tests and inspections on water or wastewater and evaluate the results.

Detail oriented. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must monitor machinery, gauges, dials, and controls to ensure everything is operating properly. Because tap water and wastewater are highly regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, operators must be careful and thorough in completing these tasks.

Math skills. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must have the ability to apply data to formulas that determine treatment requirements, flow levels, and concentration levels.

Mechanical skills. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must know how to work with machines and use tools. They must be familiar with how to operate, repair, and maintain equipment.

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the right jobs to get there.

Average Salary$35,176
Job Growth Rate-5%

Water Operator Jobs

Water Operator Career Paths

Top Careers Before Water Operator

Top Careers After Water Operator

Driver
7.3%

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Water Operator

Water Operators in America make an average salary of $35,176 per year or $17 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $49,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $25,000 per year.
Average Salary
$35,176

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Water Utility Certified Operator or A Water Operator In Training
Water Utility Certified Operator or A Water Operator In Training
City of Monroe
City of Monroe
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$42,01110/30/2020
$42,011
Water Operator
Water Operator
City of Whitewater
City of Whitewater
10/26/2020
10/26/2020
$48,02210/26/2020
$48,022
Water Facilities Operator I*
Water Facilities Operator I*
City of Henderson
City of Henderson
10/20/2020
10/20/2020
$59,50010/20/2020
$59,500
Water Reclamation Facility Operator, SR.-West Area and Arrowhead
Water Reclamation Facility Operator, SR.-West Area and Arrowhead
City of Glendale Az
City of Glendale Az
09/24/2020
09/24/2020
$44,85009/24/2020
$44,850
Water Reclamation Operator III-May Underfill I or II
Water Reclamation Operator III-May Underfill I or II
Salt Lake City Corporation
Salt Lake City Corporation
08/08/2020
08/08/2020
$39,59008/08/2020
$39,590

Calculate your salary

Use Zippia's Salary Calculator to see how your pay matches up.

Water Operator Demographics

Gender

male

86.6%

female

11.5%

unknown

1.9%

Ethnicity

White

71.9%

Hispanic or Latino

11.9%

Black or African American

10.0%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

54.5%

Swedish

9.1%

Danish

9.1%
See More Demographics

Water Operator Education

Degrees

High School Diploma

34.9%

Bachelors

22.9%

Associate

18.3%

Top Colleges for Water Operators

1. Duke University

Durham, NC

Tuition and fees
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

2. Bucknell University

Lewisburg, PA

Tuition and fees
$56,092
Enrollment
3,583

3. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Troy, NY

Tuition and fees
$53,880
Enrollment
6,590

4. North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC

Tuition and fees
$9,101
Enrollment
23,708

5. Santa Clara University

Santa Clara, CA

Tuition and fees
$51,711
Enrollment
5,504

6. Vermont Technical College

Randolph, VT

Tuition and fees
$15,108
Enrollment
1,350

7. Texas Christian University

Fort Worth, TX

Tuition and fees
$46,950
Enrollment
9,407
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Water Operator

Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Water Operator

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 10.0% of water operators listed water quality on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and math skills are important as well.

  • Water Quality, 10.0%
  • Plant Equipment, 6.5%
  • Water Treatment Plant, 5.8%
  • Pump Stations, 5.1%
  • Process Control, 4.5%
  • Other Skills, 68.1%
  • See All Water Operator Skills

How Do Water Operator Rate Their Jobs?

Working as a Water Operator? Share your experience anonymously.
Rate
Do you work as a Water Operator?
Rate how you like work as Water Operator. It's anonymous and will only take a minute.
Rate

Top Water Operator Employers

1. US Army
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$53,674
Water Operators Hired: 
15+
2. Tetra Tech
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$61,913
Water Operators Hired: 
9+
3. Southwest Water Company
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$44,628
Water Operators Hired: 
8+
4. The Villages
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$40,355
Water Operators Hired: 
6+
5. KBR
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$56,787
Water Operators Hired: 
6+
6. American Water Works
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$48,212
Water Operators Hired: 
6+

Water Operator Videos

Recently Added Water Operator Jobs

Updated October 2, 2020