Advanced Water Treatment Operator Certification Program Finalized in California

Interested in Education/Training?

Get Education/Training articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Education/Training + Get Alerts

After four years of work, the Advanced Water Treatment Operator (AWTO) certification program is now complete and launched by the California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association (CA-NV AWWA) and the California Water Environment Association (CWEA). 

The exam for the highest-grade level, known as AWT5, launched July 15, completing the planned roll-out of exams on-budget and on a fast-tracked schedule.

AWTO certification allows water and wastewater operators to demonstrate their advanced knowledge and qualify for new career opportunities at high-tech water reuse facilities. As California and Nevada expand water reuse, AWT operators are expected to be in high demand.

Prompted by calls in 2014 from water utilities, water professionals and the California State Water Board, planning for the certification program accelerated after CA-NV AWWA and CWEA signed a memorandum of agreement in 2018 to work together. According to a survey by the California Urban Water Association (CUWA), 88% of water professionals supported the development of a new operator certification program.

The California State Water Board’s expert panel on direct potable reuse (DPR) also called for a new operator certification program in its 2016 report. “The certification program should emphasize topics related to the operation of advanced water treatment technologies, such as public health, emergency response and drinking water regulations.”

With the program in place, one more item is crossed off the State Water Board’s list of pre-requisites for drafting DPR regulations.

CA-NV AWWA and CWEA assembled a diverse set of stakeholders and experts to add their perspectives on the development of the certification. They were supported by CWEA and CA-NV AWWA staff and experts in exam development. Observers from the California State Water Board participated throughout.

“The CA-NV Section of AWWA is proud to co-own and collaboratively develop the AWT Operator certification program with CWEA,” says Sue Mosburg, executive director for the section. “Uniting the world of water, AWTO is the only treatment operator certification jointly offered by AWWA and CWEA. Through this program, skilled operators can advance in their water sector careers by benchmarking their knowledge and competency against standardized criteria.”

About AWTO certification

Over 100 volunteers from CA-NV AWWA and CWEA were involved in planning, subject matter expert workshops, exam development, marketing and administering the new program.

To date over 60 water and wastewater operators have taken and passed an AWTO exam.

The voluntary certification program is an add-on for operators currently certified as a water treatment operator or wastewater treatment operator at the grade 3 or higher.

The first step to becoming certified is to visit and download the candidate handbook. Next, complete the application for the AWTO grade 3 exam (AWT3) and submit it to the CA-NV AWWA certification office. The application is then checked by a staff to ensure the candidate meets the minimum qualifications.

Exams are provided at computer-based testing centers throughout the nation. Once a candidate’s application is approved, the testing center will help them schedule an exam appointment. Candidates must take the exams in order, and must successfully pass each exam to move up. Candidates may not skip grades and there is a 90 day waiting period between taking each exam.

There are currently 11 advanced water treatment facilities permitted and operating in California, with seven in the state’s permitting process. 


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.