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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Water and Waste Plant Operators (9243)

Water and waste plant operators monitor and operate computerized control systems and related equipment in water filtration and treatment plants to regulate the treatment and distribution of water. They monitor and operate computerized control systems and related equipment in wastewater, sewage-treatment and liquid-waste plants to regulate the treatment and disposal of sewage and waste.

Reading Help - Reading
  • Read logbook entries, e.g. read logbook entries to obtain information about the performance of water systems. (1)
  • Read instructions and warnings written on signs, labels and packaging, e.g. read labels on electrical panels to learn about electrical shock hazards. (1)
  • Read memos, e.g. read memos to learn about changes to operating procedures. (2)
  • Read a variety of instructions and procedures, e.g. read step-by-step instructions about the start-up and shutdown of water-treatment equipment. (2)
  • Read brochures from suppliers to familiarize themselves with new equipment, procedures and products. (2)
  • Read safety related information, e.g. read safety rules and regulations governing fall protection, confined spaces and other hazards. (3)
  • Read a variety of manuals, e.g. read manuals to find information about the operation, maintenance and repair of computerized control systems and related equipment. (3)
  • Read website articles and trade and engineering magazines to learn about new products and stay up-to-date on new technology. (3)
  • May read and interpret standards and regulations, e.g. read regulations issued by Environment Canada to learn about restrictions placed on the disposal of raw sewage. (4)
Document use Help - Document use
  • Read labels on product packaging, equipment, drawings and panels to locate specifications, voltages, safety information and identification numbers. (1)
  • View meters and digital readouts, e.g. scan digital readouts to determine temperatures and rates of flow. (1)
  • Complete a variety of forms, e.g. enter data, such as dates, times and concentration levels, into system monitoring forms. (2)
  • Locate data in tables, e.g. locate data, such as turbidity, concentration, flow and temperature, in specification tables. (2)
  • Locate data in graphs, e.g. scan circle graphs to locate the hourly and daily usage of water-treatment systems. (3)
  • Study a variety of technical drawings, e.g. study schematics to determine water-system flows and capacities and scan floor plans to locate dimensions and placement of equipment. (3)
Writing Help - Writing
  • Write short comments in log books, e.g. write short comments to inform co-workers about the results of equipment inspections. (1)
  • Write brief and informal messages, e.g. write email messages in response to requests from engineers for information, such as pH readings. (1)
  • May write reports to describe events leading up to workplace accidents, e.g. write about injuries and events when completing reports for workers' compensation boards. (2)
  • May write letters to suppliers requesting product information. (2)
  • Enter text into a wide range of forms, e.g. write comments on a reservoir treatment plant daily report to describe the analyses of test results. (2)
  • May write lengthy reports, e.g. write reports that describe activities, changes to operating systems and upcoming projects. (4)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy
  • May handle petty cash to buy supplies. (1)
  • Take a variety of measurements using gauges, e.g. measure the temperature of water using thermometers. (1)
  • Measure out quantities and weigh chemical compounds, e.g. measure out quantities of fluoride and lime before adding them to water and waste-plant systems. (1)
  • Compare measurements of water quality, temperature, pH and flow to specifications, e.g. compare data from water-quality test results to standards to identify whether they are within acceptable limits. (1)
  • Estimate how much sludge is in a tank. (1)
  • May monitor small budgets for the purchase of tools and sundry items. (2)
  • May schedule the delivery of chemicals. They consider factors, such as tank sizes and rates of depletion. (2)
  • Calculate averages of sets of readings and draw conclusions to make adjustments to plant equipment and systems, as required. (2)
  • Estimate the rate of flow needed to fill a tank. (2)
  • Estimate how long a line will be shut down to make the necessary process adjustments. (2)
  • Take precise measurements using specialized equipment, e.g. use specialized testing kits to determine pH levels. (3)
  • Calculate material requirements, e.g. apply formulae to calculate the quantity of alum needed to optimize a system. (3)
  • Calculate the volume of reservoirs, clarifiers and filter compartments to gauge their ability to meet demand. (3)
  • Analyze multiple readings to evaluate the performance of water-treatment systems, e.g. use water-quality test results to troubleshoot system faults and deficiencies. (3)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • Listen to announcements over public address systems and two-way radios. (1)
  • Exchange information with co-workers, e.g. talk with co-workers about the performance of water systems and with supervisors to coordinate activities and schedules. (2)
  • Participate in group discussions, e.g. participate in toolbox meetings to discuss safe work practices and the outcomes of job hazard assessments. (2)
  • May speak with the general public, e.g. discuss water-treatment processes with school children during public tours of water-plant facilities. (2)
  • Exchange technical repair and troubleshooting information with co-workers and equipment repairers, e.g. describe the operating condition of malfunctioning equipment to repairers, such as industrial electricians. (3)
Thinking Help - Thinking
  • Decide the order of tasks and their priorities, e.g. decide which equipment maintenance activities and tests to complete first. (1)
  • Judge the accuracy of readings taken using equipment, such as pH testers. They compare readings taken with other types of equipment. (1)
  • Encounter delays due to equipment breakdowns and malfunctions. They inform co-workers and equipment repairers about the malfunction. They help troubleshoot the cause of the malfunction, initiate procedures to reduce the impact and monitor the situation until the equipment is repaired. (2)
  • May receive complaints from customers. They track recent data from the plant systems and equipment to determine whether the problem is caused by a plant malfunction. If it is not, they contact the municipal office to request that they dispatch a technician. (2)
  • Decide when to schedule repairs, considering what time would cause the least disruption. (2)
  • Decide process control changes needed to ensure that plant systems and equipment are operating within prescribed limits. (2)
  • Evaluate the safety of work sites. They consider the hazards presented by chemicals, equipment, confined spaces and working at heights. (2)
  • Determine task order to resolve issues efficiently, e.g. when data or inspections indicate that there is a process problem. In some cases, supervisors establish their work priorities and in other cases, they set their own priorities, subject to only general guidance from supervisors. They have some need to integrate their work plans with those of others, although much of their work is done independently. (2)
  • Learn about the operational status of systems by reading log books, reviewing data from computerized control systems, completing tests and physical inspections and by speaking with co-workers. (2)
  • Learn about new equipment by reading operating manuals and by speaking with co-workers and manufacturers' representatives. (2)
  • Learn how to perform rarely used procedures by reading manuals, conducting online research and speaking with co-workers. (2)
  • Encounter water-distribution problems when computerized control systems malfunction. They co-ordinate the human resources needed to collect data at each site, help troubleshoot the malfunction and provide uninterrupted regulation of water and sewage-treatment services. (3)
  • May decide to shut down equipment or sections of the plant that are malfunctioning. They consider the severity of the malfunctions and the impact of shutdowns. (3)
  • Evaluate the performance of equipment and water-treatment systems. They consider multiple test results and signs of malfunction, such as excessive vibrations, unusual noises and odours. (3)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • May use calculators and personal digital assistant (PDA) devices to complete numeracy-related tasks, such as calculating material requirements. (1)
  • Use hand-held electronic devices like voltmeters to locate operational data, such as electrical readings. (1)
  • Use electronic probes and sensors to measure chemical residues. (1)
  • May use word processing software to write short reports. (2)
  • May use spreadsheet software to track and tally costs for small operating budgets. (2)
  • May use computerized maintenance management systems to look up preventive maintenance schedules and equipment history records and to create work orders. (2)
  • Use specialized software, such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system software and distributed control system software, to monitor and operate computerized control systems. (2)
  • Use statistical analysis software to generate graphs and charts that present chemical levels, such as the level of nitrate in a well and bacterial contents. (2)
  • May use communication software to exchange email with co-workers. (2)
  • May use the Internet to access training courses and seminars offered by training institutions, unions, suppliers, associations and employers. (2)
  • Use Internet browsers and search engines to access technical service bulletins, regulations, specifications and troubleshooting guides. (2)
  • May access online articles posted by suppliers, manufacturers and associations to stay current on industry trends and practices. (2)
  • May use advanced features of word processing programs, such as inserting tables of contents and diagrams created in other programs, to complete annual reports. (3)
  • May create spreadsheets and graphs to monitor chemical concentration levels at different points within water-treatment systems. (3)
  • Use statistical analysis software to analyze chemical concentrations and bacterial contents. (3)
Additional information Help - Additional information Working with Others

Water and waste plant operators mainly work independently. Computerized control systems allow process monitoring at a distance from a control room. They may work with a partner, depending on factors, such as the size of the plant, safety requirements and whether or not they are working the night shift. They co-ordinate with others in the organization, such as supervisors, technicians and other operators, by phone and in person as required.

Continuous Learning

Water and waste plant operators have a need for ongoing learning to obtain and maintain certifications required by either their province or workplace. These include course work and prescribed hours of on-the-job experience. Most water and waste plant operators participate in off-site training activities at local colleges or by correspondence; some acquire new skills through training offered in the workplace. They also participate in safety training related to skills, such as working safely with chemicals and in confined spaces. Computer training is also important as plants continue to modernize their processes.

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