MEETING THE NEED: Developing Certification for Advanced Water Treatment Operators

The following has been reformatted and republished with permission from September 2019 Journal AWWA (Vol. 111, No. 9). Copyright AWWA 2019. All rights reserved. The original article may be accessed on the Journal AWWA website at

By Steven Garner
Certification Manager

Key Takeaways

The California–Nevada Section of AWWA and California Water Environment Association sought a new industry certification for operators working with advanced water treatment (AWT) processes.

A diverse set of stakeholders and experts added their perspectives on the development of the new certification.

The AWTO Grade 3 exam was released in July 2019.

Water has been reused since ancient times, primarily resulting from upstream users discharging their waste into rivers, lakes, and other water bodies. Over time, nonpotable reuse gained popularity to meet irrigation and industrial demands. So, while overall reuse is not new, intentional potable reuse (i.e., treating wastewater historically released into the environment so that it meets drinking water standards) is still a relatively novel approach to water supply for almost all utilities.


Learn More about AWTO at Upcoming Events

Upcoming Presentations

  • Oct 21st – San Diego – Advanced Water Treatment Operator 1-Day Workshop, CA-NV AWWA Fall Conference learn more

Request a Presentation

To request an AWTO speaker please contact: Alec Mackie, CWEA, 510.382.7800 x114

Past Presentations

Event, Speaker, date

  • WateReuse CA 2019, Erin Mackey, 3/20/2018
  • AWWA Conference, Gordon Williams, 6/15/2018
  • GES of CWEA, Larry Parlin, 11/15/2018
  • ABC Innovation in Certification, Steven Garner, 1/10/19
  • WateReuse CA 2019, Erin Mackey, 3/18/2019
  • CA-NV AWWA Conference, Peter Brooks and Steven Garner, 3/25/2019
  • MWD, Heather Collins, 3/29/2019
  • WateReuse LA , Toby Roy, 4/9/2019
  • CWEA Annual Conference, Norah Duffy, 4/11/19
  • City of Modesto Dr. John Rowe, 4/15/2019
  • Desal Conference, Gordon Williams, 4/15/2019
  • ACWA Spring Conference, Steven Garner   5/8/2019
  • SoCal CA-NV AWWA, Jack Bebe , 5/15/2019
  • SARBS of CWEA, Chibby Alloway, 5/15/2019
  • WateReuse Central Coast, Chris Martin, 5/23/2019
  • SWMOA Conference, Yan Zhang and Alec Mackie, 6/24/2019
  • Monterey Bay AWTO training workshop, 7/10/19
  • July 28-30 – Flagstaff – WateReuse AZ – AWTO program update with Erin Mackey
  • August 6-8 – Las Vegas – TriState Seminar – AWTO info table (in the sessions area)
  • August 21 – Orange – CA-NV Water Education Symposium
  • Sept 9 – San Diego – WateReuse Conference – AWTO Certification update with Erin Mackey

We are now accepting applications for the AWT3 Certification Exam

The AWT Operator™ Certification program is kicking off and we’re ready to start taking applications for the exam.

Remember, to apply for the AWT3 exam you must current hold a Grade 3, California or Nevada issued operator certification (drinking water treatment operator or wastewater treatment operator).

Follow the steps on the Apply page.

The first step is to download the AWTO™ Candidate Handbook.

The future of water is starting now.
Get AWTO certified.

Good luck!

AWTO Program Development Timeline

AWT Operator Program

Tasks Completed
✔ AWTO™ Certification Committee formed
✔ Group of Subject Matter Experts identified and interviewed
✔ Job analysis completed
✔ KSAs finished for grades 3-5
✔ Minimum qualifications developed for grades 3-5
✔ Market research/forecasts written
✔ Business plan/budgets outlined
✔ CA-NV AWWA & CWEA Memorandum of Agreement signed
✔ Selected Dainis and Company as our exam development consultant
✔ Interview Subject Matter Experts (SME)
✔ Engage SMEs with item writing (exam questions)
✔ Creation of SME extraction document of all interviews
✔ Review Items
✔ Rate items based upon minimally competent operator answering correctly
✔ Determine passing score
✔ Create exam form (AWT3™)
✔ Create exam form (AWT4™)
✔ Create exam form (AWT5™)
✔ Develop candidate handbook
✔ Sign contract with computerized based testing provider

Tasks Ahead

⦾ Deliver first exams summer 2019

To stay up-to-date with each milestone, please sign up for the AWTO e-mail list >