Reuse Operator Training - Bridging the Gap of Specialized Needs


  • Buddy Boysen, Ben Stanford, Troy Walker - Hazen and Sawyer

Through work at DPR facilities with our clients and cutting-edge research, Hazen and Sawyer is developing the training and certification programs to help ensure operations staff have the tools and information they need to produce high-quality, reliable water for their community.

Troy Walker recently received the Best Paper Award for his presentation, Direct Potable Reuse – Getting Operations Ready for the Next Bold Leap, at the 2016 AWWA/AMTA Membrane Technology Conference.

As the water industry continues to embrace potable reuse, the need for skilled potable reuse system operators will increase. Since there is presently a shortage of skilled potable reuse system operators, the need for specialized training programs to accelerate operator development has become a critical water industry need. As a part of several WateReuse Research Foundation studies and municipal operations support work, our team has been evaluating the gaps in operator training programs and developing the curriculum needs that will provide the basis for moving the “human element” of potable reuse forward.

Potable reuse system operations is challenging for a few reasons:

  • Complete Operator Skill Set Required: Operators must understand advanced treatment technologies and have an understanding of water and wastewater treatment and distribution system operations.
  • Heightened Concern for Public Safety: Potable reuse system operations are very transparent with a very high level of required water quality sampling and reporting. Operations teams can be under national scrutiny due to the high level of interest from outside agencies and engineers.
  • Complex Treatment Processes: Belt and suspender approach to water quality protection results in complex combinations of batch and continuous treatment processes, use of advanced controls and more complicated alarm structures.

Experiences from Big Spring, TX, Scottsdale, AZ and Australia’s Wester Corridor Project illustrate operational challenges that bridge the gap between conventional water and wastewater treatment, advanced treatment system operation and water distribution. These challenges highlight a need for improved communication between water and wastewater treatment specialists and areas where additional training is beneficial.

As an industry we tend to focus on specialized training for membranes. Private companies like David H. Paul and more recently professional organizations like American Membrane Technology Association (AMTA) and its affiliates through their Membrane Operator Certification (MOC) programs are helping to address this need. However these programs do not address the need for cross training among typical water, wastewater and distribution system operator certification programs. A key piece of the training framework still needs to be developed to address this shortcoming.

This paper will focus on the outstanding training gaps in operator certification in context of observed system operations at potable reuse facilities. The paper will help agencies undertaking potable reuse projects assess staffing needs and help organizations developing specialized training to better tailor their programs for these needs.

For more information, please contact the author at

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Horizons Fall 2017 (pdf)

Horizons showcases significant water, wastewater, reuse, and stormwater projects and innovations that help our clients to achieve their goals, and can help you achieve yours. Articles are written by top engineers and process group leaders, demonstrating and explaining the beneficial application of a variety of technologies and tools.

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