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Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators
SOC Code: 51-8031.00

Operate or control an entire process or system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater.

Sample of reported job titles: Plant Operator, Process Operator (Process Op), Relief Operator, SCADA Operator (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Operator), Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator (WWTP Operator), Wastewater Operator (WW Operator), Water Control Dispatcher, Water Plant Operator, Water Treatment Operator, Water Treatment Plant Operator


  • Add chemicals, such as ammonia, chlorine, or lime, to disinfect and deodorize water and other liquids.
  • Collect and test water and sewage samples, using test equipment and color analysis standards.
  • Record operational data, personnel attendance, or meter and gauge readings on specified forms.
  • Operate and adjust controls on equipment to purify and clarify water, process or dispose of sewage, and generate power.
  • Inspect equipment or monitor operating conditions, meters, and gauges to determine load requirements and detect malfunctions.
  • Maintain, repair, and lubricate equipment, using hand tools and power tools.
  • Clean and maintain tanks, filter beds, and other work areas, using hand tools and power tools.
  • Direct and coordinate plant workers engaged in routine operations and maintenance activities.

Technology Skills

  • Compliance software - Material safety data sheet MSDS software
  • Data base user interface and query software - Data logging software; Database software
  • Document management software - Records management software
  • Electronic mail software - Microsoft Outlook
  • Industrial control software - Human machine interface HMI software; Supervisory control and data acquisition SCADA software ; Wastewater expert control systems
  • Office suite software - Microsoft Office
  • Presentation software - Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Spreadsheet software - Microsoft Excel
  • Time accounting software - Timekeeping software
  • Word processing software - Microsoft Word

Tools Used

  • Air samplers or collectors - Air monitoring equipment; Emissions monitoring systems
  • Ammonia removal equipment - Denitrification equipment
  • Atomic absorption AA spectrometers - Atomic absorption AA spectrophotometers
  • Autosamplers
  • Bacterial removal equipment - Air strippers; Fixed-film reactors
  • Blowers
  • Carbon filtration equipment - Absorption equipment
  • Centrifugal pumps
  • Chemical pumps - Chemical feed pumps; Chemical feeding equipment
  • Chlorine handling equipment - Dechlorination equipment; Disinfection chlorinators; Sulphonators
  • Colorimeters
  • Conductivity meters
  • Conveyor screw - Conveyor control equipment
  • Desktop computers
  • Digital camcorders or video cameras - Pipe inspection video equipment
  • Dissolved oxygen meters - Biochemical oxygen demand analyzers
  • Drain or pipe cleaning equipment - Pipe cleaning equipment
  • Flow sensors - Ultrasonic flowmeters
  • Furnaces
  • Grit chambers - Grit separators
  • Heat exchangers
  • Hydraulic pumps
  • Hydrocarbons analyzers or detectors - Hydrocarbon analyzers; Total petroleum hydrocarbon TPH analyzers
  • Incinerators
  • Lift stations
  • Microcontrollers - Ion exchangers; Remote terminal unit pump control equipment
  • Mixers or agitators - Aerators; Agitators; Flocculators
  • Nitrogen or nitrate or nitrite analyzer - Ammonium analyzers; Nitrate analyzers
  • Notebook computers
  • Odor control equipment
  • Oil content monitors analyzers - Oil-in-water monitors; Total oil and grease analyzers
  • Organic carbon analyzers - Carbon analyzers; Total organic carbon TOC analyzers
  • Oxygen gas analyzers - Chemical oxygen demand testing equipment
  • Oxygen generators - Aeration compressors; Diffusors
  • Packaged water treatment systems - Anaerobic treatment equipment; Sequential batch reactors
  • pH meters - pH analyzers
  • Positive displacement pumps
  • Screw Pumps - Incline screw pumps
  • Sedimentological analyzing unit - Settleometers
  • Single gas monitors - Chlorine analyzers
  • Sludge collectors - Clarifiers; Incline plate clarifiers
  • Sludge disposal equipment - Sludge injectors
  • Sludge or sewage digesters - Aerobic digesters; Sludge digesters
  • Sludge or sewage removal equipment - Scum ejectors
  • Sludge pelletizers - Filter belt presses; Plate and frame presses
  • Sludge shredders - Comminutors
  • Toxicology analyzers - Toxic gas analyzers
  • Turbidimeters - Suspended solid measurement equipment
  • Ultrafiltration equipment - Backwash filters; Microstrainers; Trickling filter beds; Vacuum filters (see all 6 examples)
  • Ultraviolet disinfection equipment - Ultraviolet UV disinfection systems
  • Valve actuators
  • Water conditioners - Ammoniators
  • Water purification equipment - Flotation equipment; Rotating biological contactors
  • Water samplers - Composite samplers; Wastewater samplers
  • Water treatment dryers - Water treatment evaporators
  • Wet scrubbers - Scrubbers


  • Chemistry - Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
  • Biology - Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
  • Mechanical - Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Production and Processing - Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
  • Public Safety and Security - Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
  • Engineering and Technology - Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
  • Administration and Management - Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • Clerical - Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.
  • Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.


  • Operation Monitoring - Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
  • Operation and Control - Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Quality Control Analysis - Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Equipment Maintenance - Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
  • Repairing - Repairing machines or systems using the needed tools.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Troubleshooting - Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Mathematics - Using mathematics to solve problems.
  • Systems Evaluation - Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
  • Time Management - Managing one's own time and the time of others.


  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Near Vision - The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Perceptual Speed - The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
  • Problem Sensitivity - The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Information Ordering - The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Selective Attention - The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Speech Clarity - The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Speech Recognition - The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Written Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Control Precision - The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
  • Far Vision - The ability to see details at a distance.
  • Manual Dexterity - The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.


  • Interest code: RC
    • Realistic - Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
    • Conventional - Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Work Context

  • Face-to-Face Discussions - 81% responded “Every day.”
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work - 62% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Telephone - 59% responded “Every day.”
  • Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets - 66% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Contaminants - 63% responded “Every day.”
  • Freedom to Make Decisions - 59% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions - 68% responded “Every day.”
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate - 65% responded “Very important.”
  • Indoors, Environmentally Controlled - 72% responded “Every day.”
  • Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable - 59% responded “Every day.”
  • Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled - 47% responded “Every day.”
  • Consequence of Error - 50% responded “Extremely serious.”
  • Contact With Others - 45% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making - 57% responded “Every day.”
  • Outdoors, Exposed to Weather - 30% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety - 37% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Work With Work Group or Team - 51% responded “Very important.”
  • Electronic Mail - 65% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results - 44% responded “Very important results.”
  • Importance of Repeating Same Tasks - 42% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Time Pressure - 42% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment - 34% responded “Every day.”
  • Duration of Typical Work Week - 74% responded “40 hours.”
  • In an Enclosed Vehicle or Equipment - 21% responded “Every day.”
  • Coordinate or Lead Others - 25% responded “Important.”
  • Spend Time Standing - 44% responded “About half the time.”
  • Very Hot or Cold Temperatures - 33% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
  • Outdoors, Under Cover - 30% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results - 45% responded “Moderate responsibility.”
  • Deal With External Customers - 34% responded “Important.”
  • Degree of Automation - 43% responded “Slightly automated.”
  • Pace Determined by Speed of Equipment - 31% responded “Not important at all.”
  • Physical Proximity - 43% responded “Slightly close (e.g., shared office).”


Percentage of RespondentsEducation Level Required
42%High school diploma or equivalent
25%Post-secondary certificate
21%Some college, no degree

Work Styles

  • Integrity - Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Dependability - Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Attention to Detail - Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Independence - Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
  • Concern for Others - Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Initiative - Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Cooperation - Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Leadership - Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility - Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Analytical Thinking - Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Self Control - Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Stress Tolerance - Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
  • Achievement/Effort - Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Persistence - Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Innovation - Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
  • Social Orientation - Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.

Work Values

  • Support - Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
  • Independence - Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
  • Achievement - Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.

Wages & Trends

  • Median wages (2017)
    • $22.19 hourly, $46,150 annual
  • Employment (2016)
    • 119,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2016-2026)
    • Decline (-2% or lower)
  • Projected job openings (2016-2026)
    • 9,200

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