Why Become a Water System Operator?

Operator certification helps protect human health and the environment by establishing minimum professional standards for the operation and maintenance of public water systems. While the specific requirements vary from state to state, the goal of all operator certification programs is to ensure that skilled professionals are overseeing the treatment and distribution of safe drinking water. Operator certification is an important step in promoting compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

Maryland classifies water facilities according to treatment technology. This ensures that operators are technically qualified for the process they are certified to operate.

The operator and superintendent must have certification that matches the water system’s classification.  Certain classifications of certificates also authorize the holder to operate other classifications of facilities.  Table 1 presents the classification of water systems and outlines the typical treatment processes found in each classification.

A temporary operator is defined as an operator who works under the direction of a certified operator or superintendent, and is employed at a water system, but has not met the experience requirements for the classification and/or has not passed an examination for the classification.  This type of certificate is only used for operators in training. 


Table 1.          Classification of Water Treatment Systems


Class of Plants

Type of Treatment Systems

Typical Processes Included in the Plant





Chemical Treatment

Chlorination, pH control and fluoridation


Simple Iron Removal

Chlorination, pH control, fluoridation, filtration and iron removal utilizing ion exchange or contact oxidation processes


Complete Treatment

Chlorination, pH control, fluoridation, aeration,coagulation, sedimentation, filtration and complex iron removal


Site specific

Site specific – any alternative technological plants not covered under the classification system (i.e. reverse osmosis, diatomaceous earth, and arsenic treatment)



Water distribution


No Chemical Treatment

Well, storage tanks, UV disinfection



Water System Operator Essentials


Water System Operator: Roles and Responsibilities - An EPA guide for understanding the responsibilities of operators and how to implement the best practices for providing safe drinking water to customers.


Certification Process Overview - Maryland Center for Environmental Training (MCET) information on the Maryland certification process and exam.

Information for Operators - Helpful information for public water system owners and operators, including links to technical assistance providers, from the EPA.

Information for States and Technical Assistance Providers - From the EPA, guidelines and reference materials for drinking water agencies and technical assistance providers implementing operator certification programs.


About the Safe Water Drinking Act

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans' drinking water. Under SDWA, EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards. Click here for more information... 

Laws and Regulations - A complete list of Federal and State laws and regulations provided from MDE.

Click here to returen to Board of Waterworks and Waste Systems Operators main page

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For more information, contact the Water Supply Program at 410-537-3702 or water.supply@maryland.gov


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