Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Drinking Water and Wastewater Operators, the Work Behind our Water

When you turn on your faucet and fill a glass with pure, clean water, do you ever wonder how it got there? When you rinse your glass and the water spills down the drain, do you think about where it goes? For most of us, we take this modern wonder for granted and can’t imagine life without the convenience of running water in our homes. My grandmother sure would have appreciated it. She needed to carry five buckets of water a day from an open well to provide all the water she needed for her family, and she could not have imagined the sophisticated infrastructure used to deliver water to households in a modern American city.

Today, drinking water and wastewater operators use computerized systems to monitor plant processes, operate equipment to purify water, and process and dispose of wastewater. The American Water Works Association projects that almost 50 percent of today’s drinking water and wastewater operators will retire within the next five to 10 years. In Oregon, replacements make up 83 percent of the total annual openings due to the aging labor force and retirements. As retiring operators empty the ranks of the profession, there are great opportunities for workers seeking career advancement, higher wages, benefits, flexible work schedules, choice of employment location, and employer-supported trainings.

“This occupation could be a great fit for veterans that are coming from the military with a lot of transferable skills in mechanics, equipment operation and engineering,” says Mark Ingman, program coordinator at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Wastewater System Operator Certification Program.
In 2015, the average annual wage for this occupation was $50,484, which is defined as a high-wage occupation. Wages for this occupation are high across the state. The highest average wages are in the Portland-Metro area with $54,885, Lane area with $54,697, and Rogue Valley with $52,503. High wages are also paid in Northwest Oregon ($50,546), East Cascades ($50,451), and Mid-Valley ($50,219).

To learn about work opportunities for drinking water and wastewater operators, read Economist Felicia Bechtoldt's full article "Drinking Water and Wastewater Operators, the Work Behind our Water".

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