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Small Water System Operator FAQs
Question 1: Who is required to have a Small Water System Operator (i.e., "SWSO" or groundwater) certification?
  • According to Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 333-061-0228 (pdf), any community or non-transient non-community water system which has fewer than 150 service connections and uses only groundwater as its source or a system that purchases all its water from a public water system but does not treat it any further. Visit our Rules & Regulations page for information about all of our drinking water rules.

Question 2: Am I an operator?
  • You are an operator if you are designated by the owner of the system to perform or be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the system which might include any of the following duties:
    • Operation and maintenance of pumps and motors;
    • Testing and sampling;
    • Leak detection and repairs; and
    • Installation of taps, pipelines, service connections, etc.

Question 3: How much does it cost to obtain a certificate?
  • There is no cost for the Small Water System Operator Certification.

Question 4: How does a system get the operator certified?
  • The legal owner (or person authorized to speak on behalf of the system) needs to decide who to designate as Direct Responsible Charge (DRC) operator. To appoint a DRC operator, a legal owner must complete and sign a SWSO application (pdf) and return it to Drinking Water Services (DWS) along with proof of having attended the SWSO training course within the past three years. The designated DRC operator must choose one of the following training options:

Question 5: There are many types of training. What counts toward SWSO Certification?
  • The only training that will be accepted for the initial certification is DWS's Small Water System Operator Basics Course. This free class is offered around the state from January through November. The course schedule and registration information are available on the basics course pageNote: OAWU handles all registration activities for this course at http://www.oawu.net/SWOTraining.htm. Alternatively, you may take the same training online; learn more about the online basics course here.
  • DWS is also offering a new free advanced course as another re-certification option for those operators who have already completed the SWSO basics course at least twice. More information aobut the advanced class, including the course schedule and registration information, is available on the advanced course page.

Question 6: How do I renew?
  • We'll send a notice to all operators whose certificates expire July 31st of that year. If you've taken the SWSO training once since your certification, you can use that certificate to renew for another three years. Otherwise, you'll need to plan to attend a training course before your certificate expires.

Question 7: What if I've taken the training before the required three years?
  • Submit the SWSO application (pdf) along with a copy of the document showing attendance of the most recent training. We will update our records for an additional three years from the previous expiration date and print you a new certificate.

Question 8: What happens if I don't send in a SWSO application to renew?
  • You won't be certified and your system will be considered out of compliance, which may result in a fine or cause difficulty in mortgage loan transactions for any properties on the system.

Question 9: How many people can be certified as operators for my system?
  • Only one is required, but you can have as many as you want. It is a good idea to have more than one person certified for a water system. When you want more than two operators (as on the application), just photocopy the SWSO application (pdf) and designate Operator #3, #4, and so forth.

Question 10: Our people rotate, whom do I certify?
  • Designate whoever has rotated to the operator in Direct Responsible Charge (DRC) position by completing a SWSO application (pdf).

Question 11: If I move on to another system, is my certificate transferable?
  • No. The certificate is site-specific and is not transferable. You can re-apply for certification at the new system.

Question 12: Can I operate several small systems and still be certified at all of them?

Question 13: We have a lab do all our work. I only make repairs. Can the lab be certified?
  • A lab (i.e., a business entity) cannot be certified as an operator. Only a person can be certified.

Question 14: I took the training class but can't find my certificate. What can I do?
  • Complete the SWSO application (pdf) by checking the "Water Operator Training" box and fill in the date and the location where you attended. When we receive the application, we will try to verify attendance with our registration lists from the class.

Question 15: Can we use a contract operator?
  • Yes. Contracting with a certified operator is an acceptable way to achieve compliance. Complete the information requested on the SWSO application (pdf). The contract operator must have a current Oregon certificate in Water Distribution or Water Treatment. Mail a copy of the contract signed by you and the operator within 30 days of hire.
  • See the Contracting for Services rule (OAR 333-061-0230 (pdf) on page 2) for contract language. A draft version (i.e., subject to change) of our template is now available for use: MS Word -or- PDF.

Question 16: How difficult is the training?
  • The training is very basic, need-to-know information that is designed specifically for small water systems.
    • Option #1 - Basics Course: There is no test - only attendance is required. You'll receive a manual and have the opportunity to ask questions of experts and other operators.
    • Option #2 - Basics Course Online: Follow the instructions for the online Basics for Small Water Operators training.

Question 17: My operator passed away. Can I take the training class now and get certified?
  • Certainly. This is a good example of why you should have listed more than one operator for the system.

Question 18: What if the owner has a property management company in charge?
  • If a property management company operates the system, the owner still needs to designate someone for certification.

Question 19: Can I get a list of certified operators?
  • Check with your local community water systems for a list of available operators, or advertise for a certified operator in your area. An operator should be able to show you a card indicating name, certification number, certification level and date of expiration.
  • You can also contact the DWS Operator Certification Unit (971-673-0413) to verify certification of an operator. You may also call us for a "List of Certified Operators" by county and/or the entire state.

Question 20: Where do I send my forms?
  • Send your forms to the address below (information is also available on the SWSO application (pdf)):
    Drinking Water Services
    PO Box 14450
    Portland, OR  97293