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Working As a Water Plant Operator

  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Getting Information
  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Repetitive

  • $46,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Water Plant 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.

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How To Become A Water Plant 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.

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Do you work as a Water Plant Operator?

Average Yearly Salary
$46,000
Show Salaries
$32,000
Min 10%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$64,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
City of Lakeland
Highest Paying City
Potomac, MD
Highest Paying State
Rhode Island
Avg Experience Level
4.7 years
How much does a Water Plant Operator make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Water Plant Operator in the United States is $46,141 per year or $22 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $32,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $64,000.

Top Skills for A Water Plant Operator

  1. Lab Tests
  2. Water Treatment Plant
  3. Water Samples
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Conducted required lab tests on water samples keep water within set limits of state and federal regulations.
  • Performed routine operational and general maintenance tasks associated with the operation of water treatment plant equipment and facilities.
  • Collected water samples, operated chemical-feeding devices, and performed laboratory tests.
  • Monitored chlorine residuals within the distribution system.
  • Maintained water treatment plant systems in order to ensure the availability of a clean community water supply.

Rank:

Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Water Plant Operators

  1. Pennsylvania
  2. Connecticut
  3. New York
  4. Rhode Island
  5. North Dakota
  6. Hawaii
  7. West Virginia
  8. Alaska
  9. Ohio
  10. South Dakota
  • (185 jobs)
  • (51 jobs)
  • (249 jobs)
  • (11 jobs)
  • (59 jobs)
  • (22 jobs)
  • (22 jobs)
  • (6 jobs)
  • (184 jobs)
  • (21 jobs)

Water Plant Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

78.6%

Unknown

13.1%

Female

8.3%
Ethnicity

White

60.1%

Hispanic or Latino

18.9%

Black or African American

11.7%

Asian

5.9%

Unknown

3.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

44.4%

Chinese

11.1%

Japanese

11.1%

Carrier

11.1%

Arabic

11.1%

Korean

11.1%
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Water Plant Operator Education

Schools

University of Iowa

10.7%

California State University - Sacramento

8.3%

Ashford University

7.1%

University of Phoenix

7.1%

Florida Atlantic University

6.0%

Florida SouthWestern State College

4.8%

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

4.8%

Pennsylvania State University

4.8%

Community College of the Air Force

4.8%

Lamar University

4.8%

South Plains College

4.8%

Berea College

3.6%

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

3.6%

University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez

3.6%

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

3.6%

Michigan State University

3.6%

University of Puerto Rico - Arecibo

3.6%

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

3.6%

Kirkwood Community College

3.6%

Texas A&M University

3.6%
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Majors

Business

18.5%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

11.4%

Biology

6.8%

Environmental Science

6.8%

Criminal Justice

5.4%

General Studies

5.2%

Management

4.4%

Electrical Engineering Technology

4.1%

Automotive Technology

3.5%

Chemistry

3.5%

Natural Resources Management

3.3%

Industrial Technology

3.3%

Computer Science

3.3%

Electrical Engineering

3.3%

Civil Engineering

3.3%

Mechanical Engineering

3.3%

Chemical Engineering

3.0%

Education

2.7%

Engineering

2.7%

Graphic Design

2.2%
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Degrees

Other

38.1%

Bachelors

25.8%

Associate

18.5%

Certificate

8.1%

Masters

5.7%

Diploma

2.1%

License

1.3%

Doctorate

0.5%
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