Requirements to Renew a Rhode Island Water Operator Certification

As a drinking water operator in Rhode Island, things can get a little confusing. The renewal timeline varies depending on the type of certification you have, for example. And there’s technically a deadline that applies, but you don’t need to get your renewal in by your expiration date. Long story short, you’re probably wondering what you really need to do — and what’s just fluff.

We can help. Here’s everything Rhode Island drinking water operators need to know to renew full or operator-in-training certification. 

The renewal timeline

This is the primary point of confusion for drinking water operators in the Ocean State. To start, let’s clarify how the timetable varies by certification type.

If you’re a fully certified operator, you go three years between renewals. If you’re an operator-in-training (OIT), you need to renew every two years. 

In most states, the expiration date on your certificate indicates the date by which your renewal is due. But things are different here. You have up to six months after your expiration date to get your renewal application in.

That grace period is pretty nice, but don’t drag your heels too much. If you miss that six-month mark, you’ll have to start the certification process all over again, which means retaking the exam. 

The training contact hour (TCH) requirement

The Department of Health adjusts the TCHs you need based on the length of your renewal cycle. In other words, because the renewal cycle is 50% longer for full certification, the TCH requirement goes up by 50%, too. 

To make things ultra-clear, we’ve listed out the TCH requirement for each certification class and type here: 


  • Class VSS: 2 hours
  • Class 1: 10 hours
  • Class 2: 10 hours
  • Class 3: 20 hours

Full operators

  • Class VSS: 3 hours
  • Class 1: 15 hours
  • Class 2: 15 hours
  • Class 3: 30 hours
  • Class 4: 30 hours

Per the Department of Health’s requirements, half of your hours need to focus directly on water system operations. 25% of them can be on general health and safety topics, and the final 25% can be on general managerial and supervisory topics. 

Getting the hours you need on the required topics can actually be pretty easy. If you take your Rhode Island water operator TCHs online from a state-approved provider, you can rest easy knowing you’re ticking all of the boxes. Just make sure you don’t duplicate modules/topics, because they’ll only count toward your TCH requirement once.  

When you get your hours done, hang onto the certificate of completion that your TCH provider issues you. You’ll need it for your renewal application. 

Added requirement for full certifications

If you have full certification, there’s another requirement that applies to you. You’ll need to be ready to show the Department of Health that you’ve worked at least 20% of the last three years in drinking water operation. 

Submitting the renewal application

About 60-90 days before your expiration date, you’ll get your renewal application in the mail. It comes with your license number, contact info, and other details already filled in for you. If you need to update your contact info with the state to make sure you get that application, you can use this form

It usually takes about eight weeks for the Department of Health to review your application and the Center for Professional Licensing to generate your renewal card and mail it to you. That’s another reason why you might not want to wait too long after your expiration date to submit your renewal paperwork.