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Operator Certification

Safe Drinking Water Section

Operator Certification Program

ADEQ’s Operator Certification Program establishes standards and guidelines for the certification of drinking water and wastewater system and facility operators | See A.A.C. Title 18, Chapter 5 >

Who Is A Certified 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. A certified operator makes all decisions about process control or system integrity regarding water quality or water quantity that affects public health. 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.

Which Facilities Need a Certified Operator?

Public water systems regulated by ADEQ and delegated partners are required to have certified operators manage their systems. Facility owner must ensure at all times there is a certified operator at or above the grade of the facility:

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

Becoming A Certified Operator

To become a certified operator, you will need to take the Operator Certification Examination proctored by Gateway Community College and City of Phoenix. No work experience with a water or wastewater facility is required to complete the Grade 1 certification exam in Arizona | Learn More >

Examination Requirements for Aspiring Operators
  • To sit for a Grade 1 exam, you must have a high school diploma or GED.
  • Pass the Grade 1 exam with a score of 70 or higher.
  • Certify your exam results with ADEQ through the Operator Certification Portal.
  • To start testing at Grade 2 or higher, you must submit qualifying education and work experience with an early exam application | Learn More >

Maintaining Current Certifications

Certified operators can maintain and upgrade their certifications through the Operator Certification Portal | Learn More >

For current certification fees, visit the Certified Operator Fee page | View Fees > 

Examination Requirements for Current Operators
  • 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. The effective date indicates the start of one year. To check the effective date of your certificate(s), log into your Operator Portal or use the Operator Certification Database (see sidebar).
  • Testing early (before 365 days from your effective date) requires an Early Exam application and ADEQ’s approval prior to sitting for the exam. Use the Operator Certification Portal to begin the review process. 
Apply to Test Early (Skip a Grade)

A certified operator or an individual who meets our current standards for operators may qualify to skip a grade and test for a higher-level certification. The applicant must show relevant work experience for the class of certification they wish to test for and have a high school diploma or undergraduate degree in a qualifying discipline. Qualifying disciplines for education include Chemistry, Biology or Microbiology, Water Resources, Environmental Science and Engineering | Learn More > 

Professional Development Hours

All certified operators with Arizona are required to complete 30 professional development hours (PDHs) in order to renew certifications. Please note, when upgrading certifications (certifying for the next Grade up), PDHs are not required | Learn More >

Reciprocity: Transfer Your Certifications to Arizona

Arizona accepts reciprocity requests from out-of-state operators who hold active, good-standing certifications. The same applies to operators that obtained certification from other jurisdictions like a military base or a tribal certification agency like the Intertribal Council of Arizona (ITCA) | Learn More >

We accept the following certifications for reciprocity review:

  • Water Treatment
  • Wastewater Treatment
  • Water Distribution
  • Wastewater Collection

Have questions about the Operator Certification Program?

Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page to find answers | Visit Page >

Arizona Administrative Code (A.A.C.) Title 18, Chapter 5, Article 1 — Rule for the Operator Certification Program | View >

AAC Title 18, Chapter 9, Article 1  —  Rule for Water Pollution Control | View >
AAC Title 18, Chapter 4  —  Safe Drinking Water | View >