Division of Environmental and Community Health

Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention

A Division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services

DHHSMeCDCEnvironmental and Community HealthDrinking WaterProfessionalsWater Operator Licensure → Public Water System Operator Requirements

Public Water System Operator Requirements

All Community and Non-Transient/Non-Community (NTNC) Public Water Systems, and any Transient water systems using surface water supplies, are required to place the operation of the water system under the direct supervision of a licensed water operator, also known as a Designated Operator (DO). Public Water Systems (PWS) are classified according to their size and complexity, ranging from "very small" to a two-tiered classification system identifying treatment and distribution aspects of the system (toppping off at Class IV). Consequently, the Designated Operator's qualifications must match - or exceed - both tiers of a PWS's classification. See Drinking Water Rules (PDF), Water Operator Rules (PDF), or visit the Water Operator Licensure page of this website for clarifications.

In 2021, the Drinking Water Program engaged Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) Solutions in a study of the Licensed Water System Operator (LWSO) environment in Maine, to identify opportunities for improvement. The study reviewed aspects of the current LWSO environment and includes findings and recommendations that were identified.

Operator Requirements

To be in compliance with operator requirements, the system owner or representative and the licensed operator must submit a Designated Operator Form (PDF). Systems may designate multiple responsible persons, but must identify one Primary Operator for system oversight and DWP contact. That individual must hold a minimum license qualification equal to or greater than the system's operating category in both treatment and distribution aspects.

The DWP has developed a policy outlining minimum requirements for licensed operators at PWS.

Guidance on Becoming a VSWS Operator (PDF)

Contract Operations

Public water systems may contract with another utility or water operator contracting firm for Designated Operator services. Although owners and operators of public water systems share responsibility for ensuring public health, Designated Operators are responsible for all water quality and quantity decisions.

List of Available Contract Operators

Owners and operators share the responsibilities of running a PWS. While the owner may delegate responsibility of operation to a licensed water operator, this delegation does not absolve the owner of responsibility.

The Designated Operator may also delegate tasks to other persons under direct supervision. Once again, this delegation does not remove the responsibility. The Designated Operator is responsible for all water quality and quantity decisions in a public water system. Unlicensed individuals (or idndividuals whose license classifications are not equal to or greater than those of the system) making decisions or performing tasks related to water quantity and quality may be viewed as "operating a water system without a license," a criminal offense under the Water Operator Rules. Designated Operators are responsible for supplying directions for tasks (preferably in the form of written standard operating procedures, or SOPs) as well as training and observing persons performing these tasks, to ensure correct operation.


Owner & Licensed Operator Responsibilities for Operating a Public Water System
(Examples of Quality and Quantity Actions & Decisions)

Owner(s) and Licensed Operator(s) are responsible for water quality- and quantity-related actions and decisions that include, but are not limited to,

  1. Adjusting chemical feed pumps;
  2. Creating and mixing chemical solutions;
  3. Adding chemical(s), when needed;
  4. Measuring quantities of chemicals in water (e.g., CL2 residual);
  5. Changes to piping or equipment involved with drinking water treatment or distribution;
  6. Pulling well pumps;
  7. Disinfecting wells & water systems;
  8. Changes to treatment and/or storage;
  9. Connecting a new source to the public water system;
  10. Resolving drinking water orders (e.g., Boil Water or Do Not Drink orders);
  11. Reviewing Monthly Operating Reports;
  12. Overseeing all sampling (making sure the actual sampler, if it is not the operator, is trained and taking samples properly);
  13. Remaining aware of any sample results (e.g., TC positives, Lead Action Level Exceedances, etc.)

The supervisory involvement of a licensed operator is required for the above listed activities.  The failure to do so may subject the PWS owner to a violation for operating without a license. Owners and licensed operators are both responsible for maintaining regulatory compliance and resolving public water system compliance issues.

Items 1 through 9 (above) may be delegated to non-licensed individuals using written procedures for regular activities, as can the act of physically taking samples. However, the licensed operator is still responsible for the oversight and the results of these activities.

Public water system owners must designate and clarify the specific areas of operator responsibility in any contracts with water system operators. Although a licensed operator is not required to perform all of the above responsibilities, the PWS owner must make the contracted operator aware of any actions taken or decisions made that relate to water quality and quantity.

For more information, refer to the Maine Drinking Water Program Policy for Administering the Maine Rules Relating to Drinking Water Regarding a Public Water System Operating without a Licensed Operator (DWP0071 – PDF).

View or download this information as a PDF

Guidelines for Establishing a Contract Operator

The Drinking Water Program has received several inquiries regarding establishing a contract operations document. It is strongly suggested that utilities and operators establish a contract for the protection of both parties.

The Drinking Water Program does not have to review or approve contracts. However, the system should file a Public Water System Designated Operator Form (PDF) within 30 days of any changes.

Updated 2/15/2024