Thursday, November 7, 2013

Green Job Series: Careers in Water Conservation [Sixth Installment]

Workers in water operations occupations keep the water flowing by pumping water out of the ground and controlling water and wastewater treatment plants.

This installment of The Daily Leap's green job series profiles key water operations occupations in water conservation.

Water Operations Occupations

Workers in water operations occupations are employed by water utilities or local governments. Water and wastewater treatment plant operators work indoors in water or sewage treatment plants. Pump operators may work outdoors or in pumping facilities.

Job Duties

Water and wastewater treatment plant operators manage the systems of machines that transfer or treat water or wastewater. They add chemicals to disinfect water, inspect plant equipment, and monitor operating conditions, meters, and gauges. These workers also collect and test water and sewage material and operate the equipment that purifies water and disposes of sewage.

Water must go through a treatment plant at some point between the original source and the local water supply. Water treatment plant operators ensure that water is clean and safe to drink before it reaches customers. After water is used, it flows through sewer systems to a wastewater treatment plant. There, it is cleaned and filtered before being released back into the environment or being reclaimed.

Pump operators, except wellhead pumpers operate the pumps that move water through pipes to another area. These pipes can be very large and move huge volumes of water over mountains or other terrain, or they may be smaller pumps that move water from one area of a treatment plant to another. Pump operators monitor the flow of water, ensuring that the pump functions properly, and do routine maintenance or repair as needed.

Education and Training

Workers in these occupations usually get on-the-job training to prepare for their jobs. Water and wastewater treatment plant operators typically need a high school diploma and receive more than 12 months of on-the-job training. Formal education is not required to become a pump operator. These workers are typically trained on the job for 1 to 12 months.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) currently does not have wage data specific to the water conservation industry. The table that follows shows wages for selected agriculture and water operations occupations in May 2012. The wages shown are median annual wages for the United States as a whole; wages vary by employer and location.

Occupation Median annual wage
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators $42,760
Pump operators, except wellhead pumpers $44,610

For more detailed information on water operations occupations in the water conservation industry, follow the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

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