About AWT Operator Certification

Photo above: The CA-NV AWWA and CWEA AWT Operator Certification Committee

Drinking water treatment, wastewater treatment or water reuse operators working at facilities using advanced water treatment technologies and related control processes may be interested in earning the new, voluntary AWT Operator (AWTO) Certification.

Why are we developing the AWTO Certification?

  1. Build public trust in Advanced Water Treatment Operators
  2. Fulfill the call by the California Urban Water Agencies (CUWA) white paper on AWT Operator certification
  3. Address the California State Water Board’s Expert Panel findings on Indirect and Direct Potable Reuse barriers, namely answering their recommendation to develop AWT operator certification
  4. Maximize wastewater reuse and other challenging source waters

The AWT Operator Certification Committee formed three years ago to develop a voluntary certification program as part of the CA-NV AWWA offerings. The California Water Environment Association (CWEA) joined the effort, and together we are building a world-class AWT Operator certification program.

What does an AWT Operator do?

AWT Operators protect public health by ensuring a supply of safe and high-quality drinking water from advanced water reuse facilities.

Our job analysis research found the following responsibilities for each grade level:

Advanced Water Treatment Operator Grade 3 (AWTO3)

The AWTO3 understands AWT processes and the impact of feed water quality on production and finished water quality. The AWTO3 operates, monitors, and maintains AWT processes, such as membrane systems and advanced oxidation. The AWTO3 has a basic understanding of AWT-related terminology, process related calculations [e.g., membrane flux, membrane transmembrane pressure (TMP), and ultraviolet transmittance (UVT)], and chemicals used in individual AWT processes. The AWTO3 understands and executes operational and safety procedures and chemical handling practices. The AWTO3 maintains and follows regulations pertinent to the end uses of treated water, such as recycled water, potable water, and potable water reuse. The AWTO3 understands instrumentation and analyzers, as well as basic maintenance calibration and verification. The AWTO3 has a basic understanding of the control strategy of plant systems. The AWTO3 has a basic understanding of SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems and data trending. The AWTO3 has a basic understanding of incident response and investigation. The AWTO3 follows a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) systems approach (including critical control point barriers, critical monitoring, key health risks, and operational response procedures). The AWTO3 has a general understanding of engineering plans and specifications, and important sampling and analysis procedures.

Advanced Water Treatment Operator Grade 4 (AWTO4)

The AWTO4 has an advanced understanding of the AWT processes, the impacts of feed water quality on production, and methods for optimizing production and finished water quality. The AWTO4 operates, monitors, maintains, troubleshoots, and optimizes the AWT processes, such as membrane systems and advanced oxidation. The AWTO4 has an advanced understanding of AWT-related terminology, process related calculations (e.g., membrane normalization and sensor calibration parameters), and chemicals used in individual AWT processes. The AWTO4 develops and executes operational and safety procedures and chemical handling practices. The AWTO4 maintains and follows regulations pertinent to the end uses of treated water, such as recycled water, potable water, and potable water reuse. The AWTO4 assists with the preparation of regulatory reports. The AWTO4 understands instrumentation and analyzers, as well as maintenance calibration and verification. The AWTO4 has an advanced understanding of the control strategy of plant systems. The AWTO4 has an advanced understanding of the use of SCADA systems, data trending, and analysis for performance monitoring and optimization. The AWTO4 has an advanced understanding of incident response and investigation, and assists with the implementation of corrective actions. The AWTO4 helps to develop and maintain a HACCP systems approach (including critical control point barriers, critical monitoring, key health risks, and operational response procedures). The AWTO4 has a general understanding of engineering plans and specifications, and important sampling and analysis procedures. The AWTO4 assists with the tracking and development of plant operations and maintenance budget.

Advanced Water Treatment Operator Grade 5 (AWTO5)

The AWTO5 has an advanced understanding of the regulations pertinent to the end uses of treated water, such as recycled water, potable water, and potable water reuse. The AWTO5 maintains regular communication with regulatory agencies. The AWTO5 ensures permit compliance. The AWTO5 has responsible charge for preparing and submitting regulatory reports. The AWTO5 has an advanced understanding of the AWT processes, the impacts of feed water quality on production, and methods for optimizing production and finished water quality. The AWTO5 oversees and may also operate, monitor, maintain, troubleshoot, and optimize the AWT processes, such as membrane systems and advanced oxidation. The AWTO5 has an advanced understanding of AWT-related terminology, process-related calculations (e.g., membrane normalization and sensor calibration parameters), and chemicals used in individual AWT processes. The AWTO5 develops and executes operational and safety procedures and chemical handling practices. The AWTO5 has an advanced understanding of instrumentation and analyzers, as well as maintenance calibration and verification. The AWTO5 has an advanced understanding of the control strategy of plant systems. The AWTO5 has an advanced understanding of the use of SCADA systems, data trending, and analysis for performance monitoring and optimization. The AWTO5 has an advanced understanding of incident management and leads the implementation of corrective actions. The AWTO5 develops and maintains a HACCP systems approach (including critical control point barriers, critical monitoring, key health risks, and operational response procedures). The AWTO5 has a general understanding of engineering plans and specifications, and important sampling and analysis procedures. The AWTO5 leads the development and tracking of plant operations and maintenance budget.

When will the exam be ready?

Spring 2019. We are planning to have exams ready for Grades 3-5.

What are the minimum qualifications to take the exam?

All CA and NV drinking water and wastewater treatment operators with a grade 3 or above will start the AWTO certification program at the AWTO Grade 3 level. Operators may progress directly up the AWTO certification independently from their respective state treatment operator certifications.

The following are the proposed qualifications based on the consensus of the subcommittee.

  • For a AWTO Grade 3 certification, the minimum qualifications for entry to the exam is a California or Nevada Grade 3 or higher Drinking Water Treatment Operator or Wastewater Operator certification.
  • For a AWTO Grade 4 certification, the minimum qualification for entry to the exam is having obtained the AWTO Grade 3 certification.
  • For a AWTO Grade 5 Certification, the minimum qualification for entry to the exam is having obtained the Level AWTO Grade 4 certification.

This recognizes operators will also have the appropriate State certification for their position and the AWTO is an add-on certification.

Who is developing the certification?

The California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association (CA-NV AWWA) and the California Water Environment Association (CWEA) are jointly developing this certification program.

The AWTO Certification Committee is led by:

  • Toby Roy, Chair, San Diego County Water Authroirty
  • Gordon Williams, Vice-Chair, East Bay Municipal Utility District
  • Erin Mackey, Secretary, Brown & Caldwell

The Committee has 4 work groups:

  • Examination development
  • Education development
  • Legislative and regulatory changes
  • Communications and outreach

If you would like to volunteer for the AWTO Certification Committee, please contact us.

What do I need to study to prepare for the exam?

We are going to prepare a “Need to know guide” and list of study reference materials that should be ready in early 2019. Then in the Spring of 2019 we’ll release the AWTO certification candidate handbook.

Be sure to sign-up for our email list so we can notify you when these materials are ready.

Other schools and associations may also develop AWTO training programs.

Do water professionals support this certification?

A majority of water and wastewater professionals have said they support the development of this certification. 70% of respondents to a WateReuse poll of water professionals agreed one certification process should be used for AWT Operators (WateReuse report, 2016).

California and Nevada already issue treatment operator certifications, so why another certification?

They do and those certifications are required if you want to work at a drinking water, resource recovery or water reuse facility.

However, water industry experts, associations and regulatory agencies agree that the current treatment operator exams are not sufficient. The existing water and wastewater treatment operator exams do not cover advanced water treatment or potable reuse-specific regulations and concerns. In 2017, the associations CA-NV AWWA, CWEA, WateReuse California and CUWA all agree a new treatment operator certification is needed.

What can agencies do to support the development of this certification?

We need your agency’s support!  Here’s what you can do:

  1. Invite us to give your management team and/or operators a presentation about the AWT Operator Certification. Contact Alec Mackie at CWEA, 510.382.7800 x114
  2. Contribute to the fundraising effort to help CA-NV AWWA and CWEA launch this major new certification program. Agencies have contributed anywhere from $5,000-$30,000 to the program to help us hire the vendors, consultants and do the outreach necessary to launch this certification in 2018-2019. Contact Alec Mackie at CWEA, 510.382.7800 x114
  3. Volunteer some of your top operators to be subject matter experts. Contact Steven Garner at CA-NV AWWA,  916.889.8465.