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Public Water System Operator Requirements
All Community and Non-Transient/Non-Community 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'. Public Water Systems 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 system'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.
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.
Guidance on Becoming a VSWS Operator (PDF)
Some public water systems contract with another utility or water operator contracting firm for Designated Operator services. Owners and operators of public water systems share responsibility for ensuring public health. Designated Operators are responsible for all water quality and quantity decisions. The DWP has developed a policy for determining when a Designated Operator is responsible for a system.
The DWP strongly suggests anyone entering into contract operations review the resources below.
- Available Contract Operators (PDF)
- Owner & Licensed Operator Responsibilities for Operating a Public Water System (PDF)
Owners and operators share responsibilities of running a water system. 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 enssure correct operation.
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 New England Water Works Association (NEWWA) provides Guidelines for Public Water Systems Contracting Water Operations (PDF). As with any agreement it is also suggested that a review by legal counsel be performed.
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.