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Waterworks operator certification

Municipal waterworks operators work at community water systems that are owned by, or serve, a city, town, village, county or other municipality. Also included in this definition are county or state owned public institutions for congregate care or correction.

A "certified operator" is an individual who has met the requirements of chapter NR 114 [PDF] Wisconsin Administrative Code, and has been issued a certificate by the DNR to operate one or more of the classifications of waterworks treatment plants.


In order to become certified as a waterworks operator, you must pass one or more subclass exams. The exam(s) which you should take is dependent upon the processes at the treatment plant at which you work, or would like to work. You may download the following document for detailed information on how to become a certified operator in Wisconsin: NR 114 Interpretation

Study guides are a valuable tool to help prepare for exams. There are also several courses, listed on our training calendar, that help prepare for exams. Prior education or training is not required before taking the exams, however, some classroom or online training is recommended.


All publicly owned waterworks are required to have a certified operator and are assigned a Grade of 1. Each plant must have a designated operator-in-charge certified in the appropriate subclasses for the processes used at the plant. Class S waterworks facilities must have an operator certified at Grade T or Grade 1 in the Surface Water subclass on duty at all times of operation. Waterworks subclasses correspond to the processes used and are assigned letters as follows:

DDistribution Containing a distribution system
GGroundwater Utilizing a groundwater source
IIron removalProviding iron removal by oxidation and filtration
LLime softeningProviding treatment by lime-soda ash process for iron removal or softening, or both
SSurface waterUtilizing a surface water source
VVOC Providing special treatment such as, but not limited to, air stripping, granular activated carbon or others
ZZeolite softeningProviding zeolite softening or specific contaminant removal by resins.

Grade levels

The requirements for waterworks operator certification for each grade are:

  • Grade T, Operator-in-Training - Pass waterworks subclass exam(s).
  • Grade 1 - Pass the appropriate subclass exam(s), plus one year of satisfactory experience in the operation of a waterworks plant subclass(es).
    • In order to move above a Grade T you must have earned at least one year experience and have filled out a Waterworks Operator Certification Experience Form [PDF], and
    • submitted the completed sheet to your regional coordinator.
    • The region will determine whether experience credit is approved or denied and you will be notified either way.


If you have a current wastewater and/or waterworks certificate from another state and are interested in applying for reciprocity to Wisconsin's operator certification program, application materials are available on the Forms page. Questions regarding reciprocity can be directed to the statewide operator certification coordinator, Lisa Bushby, 608-266-0498.

Exam study options

Study Guides

Study guides are are a valuable tool to help prepare for the exams; they provide the objectives that are covered on the exams. You may either download a study guide below or request a hard copy from your regional coordinator.

Refer to the resources listed at the end of the study guide to look up the answers to each objective. Several resources are available online for free, such as Wisconsin Administrative Codes and EPA documents. Manuals can be purchased online or checked out via inter-library loan through UW Water Library [exit DNR]. You may also check with the facility where you work to see if they have some of the manuals on hand. In addition, you may review these study tips [PDF].

SubclassStudy GuideEdition Date
DDistribution [PDF]Dec 2006 (Revised Jan 2013)
GGroundwater [PDF]Dec 2006 (Revised Feb 2015)
IIron removal [PDF]Jan 1994
LLime softening [PDF]Jan 1994
SSurface water [PDF]Dec 2006 (Revised Feb 2015)
VVOC Removal [PDF]Jan 1998
ZZeolite softening [PDF]Jan 1994

Classroom and online training

There are several courses that help prepare for the exams(s). Some of the training providers are:

Please note that this is not a complete list of training options.

Continuing ed

Municipal waterworks operators need continuing education to maintain their certifications. This continuing education requirement is designed to help operators keep current on new requirements and technical innovations. Continuing education also helps operators acquire additional knowledge and skills. Continuing ed requirements are based on the renewal cycle for certifications - certification must be renewed every three years.

  • Both Grade T and Grade 1 operators require 18 hours of continuing education.
  • Surface water operators designated as operator-in-charge are required to have 24 hours of continuing education.

Credits must be earned within the three year certification period. For example: If November 1, 2012 is the expiration date of the certification, continuing education credits must be earned between November 1, 2009 and November 1, 2012 to be valid for renewal.

The continuing education must be relevant towards the operation of a waterworks treatment plant. Continuing education credits may be obtained in a number of different ways including attendance at professional organization meetings or conferences, waterworks related courses (such as those offered at technical schools, colleges, or non-profit organizations), in-house training, or online waterworks courses. Please refer to our training calendar for an extensive list of applicable courses and trainings.

Credit for courses or training is determined by the following criteria:

  1. Each hour spent in course learning constitutes one credit hour of continuing education credit (minus breaks and lunch).
  2. Attendance at the entire course and successful completion of the course are required to receive any credit.
  3. Credit for a course cannot be split between water and wastewater - it has to be one or the other (except statewide conventions).
  4. A maximum of six hours health and safety related training may be used per renewal period. Examples of health and safety related training include first aid/CPR, confined space entry, excavation safety, personal protective equipment, Hazwoper, RCRA, and bloodborne pathogens.

If an operator takes a training that was not pre-approved, but is relevant towards waterworks treatment, the operator may complete the Operator Training Report Form [PDF] to document the training. Proof of attendance documentation must be attached to the Training Report Form.


Operator certifications come up for renewal every three years. The operator certification program sends courtesy renewal reminder letters to operators six weeks before their certification expiration date. It is important for operators to keep their address current by notifying their regional coordinator of any changes. The letter serves as a courtesy reminder only; it is the operator's responsibility to keep track of their certification expiration date. When the operator is ready to renew, they should mail in the courtesy reminder letter, their continuing education documentation, and the $45 renewal fee to:

Wisconsin DNR
Operator Certification Program - SS/7
PO Box 7921
Madison WI 53707-7921

The renewal materials must be postmarked by the expiration date on the certificate (there is no grace period). Any renewal postmarked after the expiration date should also include the $25 late penalty fee.

Once a certification expires, an operator has one year from their expiration date to reinstate their lapsed certification. An operator is not considered a certified operator during this lapse of certification. If a certification is not renewed within that one year time period, the operator will need to re-take the exams as a new operator.


How do I get an application to take an exam?

An exam application will be sent (2 1/2 months prior to the upcoming exam date) to those operators that have taken an exam in the last year and a half. An operator who has not taken an exam in the last year and a half may contact their regional coordinator for an application. New operators may dowload an application on our website.

How much does it cost to take an exam?

Each exam is $25. Exam fees are non-refundable.

When will I be notified of my exam results?

Exam results letters are sent normally within 30 days of the exam day (maximum 60 days per Act 167 [PDF]). A list of missed key knowledges is printed out on your exam results letter. Refer to your study guide to determine what areas need more study.

I passed the exams- Why am I a Grade T?

Grade levels depend on both passed exams and credited work experience. Once you have accumulated at least one year of experience, submit a Waterworks Operator Certification Experience Form [PDF] to your regional coordinator (refer to Contacts tab). If approved, your grade level will be upgraded and you will receive a new certificate in the mail reflecting the upgrade.

What classes can I take to get continuing education credits?

Check our training calendar for a current list of training opportunities. Contact the sponsor directly for more information on the individual trainings.

When should I submit my continuing education documentation?

Keep your credit slips and other documentation on file. Courtesy renewal reminder letters are mailed six weeks prior to your expiration date, provided that we have a current address for you on file. At that time, mail in your reminder letter, continuing education documentation, and the appropriate fee before the expiration date on your certificate.

What if I earn more credits than I need?

That's great!! Send along any extra credits you have and they become a part of your record. Credits cannot be carried over to the next renewal period.

What if I don't have enough credits to renew?

Send in the required continuing education documentation when you have accumulated enough credits and a $70 fee ($45 renewal fee and $25 penalty fee) to the department to get your certification renewed. You have one year after the expiration of your certificate to renew. If you do not renew your certification within that one year period, your operator record will be deleted and you will have to retake all exams.

Back to Top


"The Certified Operator" is the annual newsletter of the operator certification program distributed in August to all certified wastewater and municipal waterworks operators. The newsletter highlights program information and updates. DNR has recently begun emailing the newsletter to all operators who have an email address on file. If you are currently receiving the newsletter via regular mail and would like to receive future copies via email, please email your request to (please include your name and certification number in the email).

Current edition of "The Certified Operator"

August 2014 [PDF]

Previous editions of "The Certified Operator"

August 2013 [PDF]

August 2012 [PDF]


Contact your regional coordinator for any questions regarding your certification. Experience forms should be mailed to your regional coordinator.

Regional Coordinators
Regional office Coordinator name Counties of responsibility
DNR - South Central Region
3911 Fish Hatchery Rd
Fitchburg WI 53711
Sharon Helt
Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Lafayette, Richland, Rock, Sauk
DNR - South Eastern Region
1155 Pilgrim Rd
Plymouth, WI 53073
Diane Ten Pas
Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha
DNR - Northeast Region
2984 Shawano Ave
Green Bay WI 54313-6727
Heather Hermes
Brown, Calumet, Door, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marinette, Marquette, Menomonie, Oconto, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago
DNR - West Central Region
890 Spruce St
Baldwin WI 54002
Jan Engel
715-684-2914 Ext 140
Adams, Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, LaCrosse, Marathon, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Portage, St. Croix, Trempealeau, Vernon, Wood
DNR - Northern Region
810 W Maple St
Spooner, WI 54801
Sarah Hughes
Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Florence, Forest, Iron, Langlade, Lincoln, Oneida, Polk, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, Vilas, Washburn
Lisa Bushby, DNR Statewide Operator Certification Coordinator
PO Box 7921, Madison WI 53707-7921
Phone 608-266-0498
Fax 608-266-5226

For general questions, contact

Printer-friendly list of waterworks coordinators [PDF]

Last revised: Tuesday February 10 2015