Water Operator Salary Guide

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a water operator — or you are one already but you’re curious about moving up the ladder — you’re probably wondering how much the average water operator earns. 

As you can probably guess, different certificate levels earn you different salaries. The higher your certificate level, the more you can expect to bring home. A water treatment plant operator salary will be higher than an entry-level water operator salary, for example. 

On top of that, salaries for this specialty vary from state to state. 

All this said, we can still help you get a ballpark idea of how much you can expect to earn on a water operator salary. Here’s your quick guide to the amount of money you can bring home with this certification. 

Our water operator salary methodology

If we were going to explore the average salaries of every water professional at every certificate level in all 50 states, we’d probably be presenting you with a full-scale book by the time all was said and done.

We’re not going to do that, but we do want to give you a solid idea of how salaries vary based on location and license level. 

With that goal in mind, we’re going to give you averages for a water operator salary. We’ll then compare those against a water treatment operator salary to give you an idea of what more specialization can earn you. 

And so you have at least a rough idea of what you can expect to earn in your area, we’ll give you the average salary for a sample state in each region. Here are the states we’ve picked:

  • Northwest: Oregon
  • West: California
  • Southwest: New Mexico
  • Midwest: Illinois
  • Southeast: Alabama
  • Mid-Atlantic: Maryland
  • Northeast: Vermont

Hopefully, if your state isn’t on that list, you can find one that’s relatively closeby to help you get a good idea of the water salary in your area. 

Water distribution operator salary

As a water distribution operator or any other type of water operator, you’ll work under general supervision to perform a broad range of jobs. Here’s a quick look at what you can expect to earn for that effort. 

  • Oregon: At the time of this writing, a job posting was available for a water distribution operator in Seal Rock. They listed the water distribution operator salary range between $14.60 and $20.68 per hour, which is a fairly wide spread. Let’s assume you fall right in the middle at roughly $17.75. A full-time job would put your annual salary at just shy of $37,000. ZipRecruiter gives a salary range of $34,000 to $54,000. 
  • California: Because the cost of living in the Golden State is so high, it’s not surprising that the average California water operator salary is a little higher at $43,631. 
  • New Mexico: In New Mexico, the average salary for this position is $35,815. 
  • Illinois: Illinois is right in the same ballpark with an average waster distribution operator salary of $33,873. 
  • Alabama: Alabama’s in a similar range at $36,375, on average. 
  • Maryland: We had a hard time finding data for Maryland, but we did learn that if you make it all the way up to senior operator, salaries average at over $48,000. 
  • Vermont: We couldn’t find solid data for Vermont, either, although ZipRecruiter gives a huge range of $34,000 to $55,000. 

But all this said, you’re probably looking at a starting salary in the mid-to-low $30k range, with the potential to move up as you gain more experience. 

Water treatment operator salary

Let’s take this from the top.

  • Oregon: For a specialization in water treatment, you can expect to earn more than the average water operator salary. In Oregon, the average for a water treatment operator is nearly $60,000 a year
  • California: Perhaps the EIR figure above is a little high because although California usually pays more, they come in at a lower water treatment operator salary average with $51,389
  • New Mexico: New Mexico water treatment operators earn an average of $42,050
  • Illinois: The average water treatment operator salary varies depending on where you live in Illinois. Pros in Kankakee are looking at just over $46,000, while Chicagoans earn close to $49,000
  • Alabama: In Madison, the average water treatment operator salary is $43,522. 
  • Maryland: In Maryland, you can expect to earn around $47,435 for your water treatment operator salary. 
  • Vermont: Vermont let us down for data again, so we popped over to Maine, where the average water treatment operator salary is $44,350.

The key to keeping your water salary flowing in

Ultimately, getting certified to work as a water professional is a pretty good deal. Water jobs will always be necessary so you can expect steady work.

But there is one thing you need to do in order to keep yourself eligible for your salary: maintain your certification or license. Just like the average water plant operator salary depends on where you live, the way you do maintain your cert will depend on your state. 

Don’t worry. We have an easy way you can protect your water operator salary. You can earn the state-approved continuing education units (also called contact hours) that you need online and on your own time. Not only do we offer a way to get those hours at your own convenience — and even from your smartphone or tablet — but we also help you stay informed about what’s required to maintain your water cert. 

Choose your state from the dropdown menu on our home page. Scroll down past the course selection and you’ll see a quick and easy guide to renewing your water operator status. Give that a read-through, check it against your state website to make sure you have all the details you need, then mark your calendar. Generally, as long as you complete your CE hours on time, you won’t have any trouble maintaining your certification — and your water operator salary.

Whether you’re looking to earn a water treatment plant operator, a water distribution operator, or a general water operator salary, we hope this guide gave you an idea of what to expect.