Not so long ago many of the rivers and streams in the Northeast were regarded as nothing more than open sewers. Tough environmental laws, stringent water-quality standards, and investment in publicly and privately owned wastewater treatment facilities and infrastructures turned a national disgrace into a major success story.

Today, our rivers are vibrant corridors sustaining wildlife, people, and local economies. This success is due to the men and women who work in the water pollution control industry. They are the water quality professionals-proud to be doing jobs that make a difference to public health, the environment, and society.

Water quality professionals work with state-of-the-art technology at public, private, and industrial wastewater collection treatment and pretreatment operations in cities and towns across the U.S.

These dynamic, complex operations collect and handle anywhere from several thousand gallons to millions of gallons of wastewater each day before discharging clean water back to the environment.

The work is no small task, and it often takes creativity, ingenuity, and flexibility to meet the demands. An operator is often called upon to be a “jack of all trades,” employing multiple skills in a day’s work.

Despite its many positive attributes, the field in recent years has not been attracting sufficient numbers of young people interested in pursuing a career in water quality. As the current workforce ages, there is a growing need for qualified people to take the place of retirees. NEIWPCC is dedicated to increasing awareness of this exciting and rewarding career path.

WWTF Labor Market Survey

NEIWPCC continues to pursue solutions to the labor shortage issue that many believe looms large on the horizon for wastewater treatment facilities in the Northeast. As part if this effort NEIWPCC conducted a survey of wastewater treatment facilities in the region to collect real world industry labor market data.

The survey targeted wastewater treatment facilities in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, and included questions about general WWTF characteristics, in addition to more focused questions about present workforce demographics, current and future staffing needs, hiring procedures, and salary/benefits packages. Read about the survey and our key findings.

Educational Programs

A number of colleges and universities offer programs in wastewater treatment and water quality technology. NEIWPCC is working on a list of programs in the Northeast. If a college or university is near you, we encourage you to contact the school and inquire about water-quality programs. Should you find a program at a school that we have not listed, please contact us at so we can add it to our list.


NEIWPCC offers several courses designed to teach students basic information relative to the operation of municipal wastewater treatment plants. For more information, click here.

Youth and the Environment

Since 1991, NEIWPCC and the Lowell Wastewater Treatment Plant have collaborated in conducting the Youth and the Environment summer program in Lowell, Mass. The program, which is part of a national effort started by EPA, stresses hands-on work experience and academic training to introduce disadvantaged inner-city high school students to professional opportunities in the environmental field.

Other Career Resources

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook has a wealth of information on thousands of occupations, including Water and Liquid Waste Treatment Plant and System Operators. The section describes typical working conditions, training requirements, outlook for jobs, average earnings, etc.

For more information on careers in water quality, contact the Water Environment Federation. WEF also offers publications that help collection systems operators prepare for certification exams. WEF’s local member association, the New England Water Environment Association is also a good resource for information.

For general information on certification of water and wastewater operators, contact Water Professionals International.

For another overview, the Learn to Become website has published this guide to green careers.

Contact your state’s wastewater operator association for career information: