Operator Certification

ADEQ’s Operator Certification Program establishes guidelines to ensure that only certified operators make decisions about process control or system integrity that affects public health. The program establishes minimum standards for certification and recertification of the operators of drinking water and wastewater systems.

Who Is An Operator?

A certified operator is an individual who holds a current certificate issued by ADEQ in the field of water or wastewater treatment, water distribution, or wastewater collection. All water and wastewater facilities require an operator in direct charge who is certified for the class of the facility at or above the grade of the facility. Facility owners need to ensure that all current operators working in their facility are on file with ADEQ.

Who Must Be Certified?

  • Grade 3 & 4 facilities require an on-site operator.
  • Grade 1 & 2 facilities require an on-site representative.
  • Grade 1 distribution facilities, serving fewer than 100 people, do not need an on-site representative.

How Do I Become A Certified Operator?

To become a certified operator, you will need to take the Operator Certification Examination. No work experience at a water or wastewater facility is required to complete an operator certification exam in Arizona.

Examination Requirements

  • To sit for a Grade 1 exam, you must have a high school diploma or GED. 
  • Operators must hold the lower-grade-level certificate for one full year (365 days from the effective date), prior to sitting for the next grade level.  To check the effective date of the certificate(s), use the Operator Certification Database (see sidebar).
  • Testing early (before 365 days from your effective date) requires ADEQ approval prior to sitting for the exam. Use the Operator Certification Portal to begin the review process.
  • To start testing at Grade 2 or higher, qualifying education and work experience is required. Please contact the Operator Certification Program for more details.  
  • If you recently passed an operator certification exam or received reciprocity from ADEQ, you will need to visit the Operator Certification Portal to apply. If you passed the exam, you'll need to include the Individual Mastery Report (IMR) that you received from the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) via email (a printout showing your first and last name along with the exam breakdown and passing score). New certificates will not be issued until the application, IMR (if applicable) and fee(s) have been received by ADEQ.

Before applying for an early exam, please ensure you have the following qualifications:

Grade 2

  • High school graduation or the equivalent AND one year of qualifying experience as a Grade 1 operator or the equivalent of a Grade 1 operator in another jurisdiction;
  • Two years of postsecondary education in a qualifying discipline AND one year of qualifying experience, including six months as a Grade 1 operator or the equivalent of a Grade 1 operator in another jurisdiction; or
  • A bachelor’s degree in a qualifying discipline AND six months of qualifying experience.

Grade 3

  • High school graduation or the equivalent AND two years of qualifying experience, including one year as a Grade 2 operator or the equivalent of a Grade 2 operator in another jurisdiction;
  • Two years of postsecondary education in a qualifying discipline AND one year of qualifying experience as a Grade 2 operator or the equivalent of a Grade 2 operator in another jurisdiction; or
  • Bachelor’s degree in a qualifying discipline AND one year of qualifying experience.

Grade 4

  • High school graduation or the equivalent AND three years of qualifying experience, including one year as a Grade 3 operator or the equivalent of a Grade 3 operator in another jurisdiction;
  • Two years of postsecondary education in a qualifying discipline AND 30 months of qualifying experience, including one year as a Grade 3 operator or the equivalent of a Grade 3 operator in another jurisdiction; or
  • A bachelor’s degree in a qualifying discipline, AND two years of qualifying experience.

Program Fees

New Certificate — $65 (per certificate issued)

Renewal of One Certificate — $150*

Renewal of Two Certificates — $200* 

Renewal of Three Certificates — $250*

Renewal of Four Certificates — $300*

Reciprocity Application Review — $250 (upon review and approval, ADEQ will contact applicant for the new certificate fee)

Early Exam Application Review — $150

Workshops:

The Operator Certification Program hosts free workshops throughout the year (see sidebar). All operators, stakeholders and community members are welcome to attend and participate. Professional Development Hours (PDHs) will be awarded at all workshops. 

Renewal Information

For new certification and certification renewal, please be aware before choosing common expiration dates.
If you are purchasing/activating a new certification and have currently existing certifications, and choose to align the expiration dates, the expiration date will align with your CURRENTLY EXISTING CERTIFICATE. Currently existing certificates will not have a new expiration date pushed out to a future date.

  • Example - If you have a Grade 2 Treatment that expires in 5/31/2021 and you activate a Grade 1 Wastewater Collection certificate on 4/19/2021 and then choose to align expiration dates, BOTH CERTIFICATES WILL HAVE THE EXPIRATION DATE OF 5/31/2021

Only choose common expiration dates when all certificates are up for renewal close to the same timeframe.
PDHs will only apply to the proper effective and expiration date.

  • Example - If you have a Grade 1 Water Treatment with the effective date in 2018 and a Grade 1 Water Distribution in 2017, the PDHs earned in 2017 will not apply to the Grade 1 Water Treatment

ADEQ does not pre-approve PDHs.

A minimum of 30 PDHs is required for renewal. At least 10 of the PDHs uploaded must be directly related to your certificate.

Reciprocity Guidelines

ADEQ only offers reciprocity like for like. This means if you are a certified Grade 1 Water Treatment operator in your state, ADEQ will only offer a Grade 1 Water Treatment.

ADEQ cannot offer reciprocity for certificates that were previously earned through reciprocity. Operators must have taken and passed their exams from their respective state to be considered for reciprocity.

ADEQ does grant reciprocity for certifications earned in the military. The military only has one grade of certifications, therefore, ADEQ will only grant Grade 1 certifications.

If you are submitting a reciprocity application and your certificates are close to expiring, please also upload your PDHs to confirm you have done the training hours your certifying agency requires.

Operator Certification Portal | Visit Portal >