What Continuing Education Do California Water Operators Need?

If you’re a drinking water operator in the state of California, you only have to worry about renewing your certificate every three years. But don’t let this to-do fall by the wayside because you have to complete it so infrequently. Before you can renew, you need to take a set number of California water operator continuing education hours so it pays to start this process early. 

In fact, don’t assume you can wait until right before your certificate expires. This document from the California Water Boards says your certificate renewal form and payment are due four months before your expiration date. In order to complete the renewal form, you need to have finished the required continuing education hours. 

On top of all that, you’re supposed to receive a renewal reminder in the mail, but it’s ultimately your responsibility to make sure your certificate doesn’t expire. In fact, that document we just linked says, “It is your responsibility to pay the renewal fee and provide information regarding your continuing education on time even if you do not receive the renewal reminder.” So mark a date on your calendar and start your continuing education hours well beforehand. 

That, of course, begs a question. What continuing education hours do California drinking water operators need to renew their certificates? Here’s a quick guide. 

Continuing education hours required by California drinking water operator certificate type and grade

The number of hours you’ll need to take in order to renew your certificate depends on the grade of certificate you hold. Whether you’re a treatment operator (T-type certificate) or distribution operator (D-type certificate), you’ll need to complete more hours the higher your certificate number. 

Specifically, the continuing education contact hours required for distributors are:

  • D1: 12 Hours

  • D2: 16 Hours

  • D3: 24 Hours

  • D4: 36 Hours

  • D5: 36 Hours

And for treatment operators, the required hours are:

  • T1: 12 Hours

  • T2: 16 Hours

  • T3: 24 Hours

  • T4: 36 Hours

  • T5: 36 Hours

For confirmation from a state document, check out page 10 of this Operator Certification FAQ.

How to get your California water operator continuing education hours 

Before you dread going to a classroom and sitting through hours of in-person teaching, we have some good news. The state has approved several education providers who offer courses online. When you choose one of these state-approved providers and take your continuing education hours online, you can put together the hours you need from the comfort of your own home. You have the freedom to choose either a single course that meets your hours requirement (e.g., a 36-hour course if you need 36 hours) or several different courses to total the hours you need. 

You can also count some of your safety hours toward your continuing education contact hour requirement — but only to a point. You can fulfill no more than 25% of your required hours with safety courses. So, for example, a T1 operator can apply safety courses toward 3 of their required 12 hours, while a T5 operator can apply 9 safety hours toward their 36-hour total. 

Once you finish your hours, hold onto the Certificate of Completion from your education provider. Submit it, along with the completed renewal application and the required fee based on your license type, to renew your certificate before its expiration. 

Fortunately, you only have to go through this process every three years. Mark your calendar so you start your continuing education with plenty of time to complete it before your renewal is due and you’ll breeze through the renewal process.