What is a Small Water System (SWS) Operator?
Operators are the people responsible for ensuring the safe and continuous operation and maintenance of our water systems. The duties of an Operator are hands-on and include tasks, such as testing and treating water samples, testing and fixing equipment, and monitoring and tracking equipment sensor data. Specific tasks and the equipment and technology used in a facility will vary depending on the size, type, and location of the facility.
While small water systems are not necessarily required to meet the operator training certification requirements needed in larger facilities, the local health authority can specifically state it as a requirement in the operating permit. In this case, the Drinking Water Officer can specify what type of training is required, based on the size and complexity of the water supply system.
Small systems serve more than 15% of people living in British Columbia. They are often found in rural or remote communities and, unfortunately, experience more water quality advisories than larger systems. They often struggle to maintain infrastructure due to a lack of funding and trained operators.
Anyone can become a SWS operator provided that they meet the requirements for certification (see below). SWS operators work in a variety of interesting locations and have a variety of job functions:
- Typical work sites include campgrounds, parks, and work camps.
- Most small systems do not require full-time care, so individuals who work in them may have other unrelated job duties.
- They often have other non-utility duties, such as park operations, ground maintenance, road construction, or similar duties
- An Operator holding a Small Water System certificate will be recognized as a certified Operator only at facilities considered small systems.
- A high school diploma is not needed to write a Small Water System certification exam.
- Small Water System Operators can apply to write exams to obtain Level I and higher certification once they acquire the additional work experience and education – please note that a high school diploma or equivalent is needed for Level I and higher certification.
Becoming a small water system operator is easier than you might think.
The requirements are:
- 12 hours in a certified training program such as the Small Water Systems Operators Course
- 6 months (minimum of 50 hours) of hands-on experience
- Successfully pass the small water systems exam
To maintain certification, you must acquire 1.2 continuing education units (CEUs) every two years and pay operator dues to the Environmental Operators Certification Program (EOCP), which are currently $60+GST.