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1.1: Introduction to Water Systems Technology

  • Page ID
    5692
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    Water Systems Technology is a program designed to provide the student with enough information to build a successful and lasting career in the water and wastewater industries. It is a program that has been developed by professionals within the industry and within academia. Upon successful completion of the program and after completing any required general education course work, the student can earn an Associate of Science degree in Water Systems Technology. In addition, each course provides supplemental course work hours required for renewal of existing certifications in the water and wastewater industries and many provide specialized training coursework to qualify students to take state certification exams. The program has several general topic course options, includes coursework related to waterworks mathematics, and has specialized courses covering water distribution, water treatment, and wastewater.

    Introduction to Water Systems Technology (Water 020) is a general overview course of the entire Water Systems Technology program. Topics covered include the requirements to obtain a career in the water and wastewater industries, and an overview of specific disciplines covered throughout the program. The various courses will provide the student a broad understanding of both the drinking water and wastewater industries, as well as specific technical background. This course and the accompanying text will provide the student with enough information to determine if “water” is the type of career for them.

    Water is a vital resource to sustain both animal and plant life. It is a resource that many take for granted. As long water flows out of the faucets within a home, many people don’t think much more about it. However, if the flow of water stops, people take notice. Think for a moment about all the things we use water for: washing, bathing, drinking, cooking, cleaning, restrooms, brushing teeth, the list goes on and on. And this is only some of the indoor water usage. Most of the water used by residential consumers is outdoors. Whether it is landscaping, swimming pools, washing cars, or growing crops, outdoor water use can account for up to 70% of a customer’s water usage. In addition, commercial and industrial businesses use water for a variety of different processes. Some industries might use millions of gallons of water a year while others might only use a few thousand gallons. Take for example an insurance office with 10 employees. More than likely the office will have a restroom and perhaps a small kitchen area. The water use at this type of business would probably be rather low. Maybe a couple hundred gallons of water flushed down the toilet and a couple pots of coffee a day might be all. Now, take the example of chemical manufacturing plant with 100 employees. In addition to restrooms and possibly a kitchen, this type of business might have boilers, water treatment and conditioner systems, and may also use a lot of water in the production of chemicals. You can see how water use can vary from business to business. Lastly, and the biggest user of water, is the agricultural industry. In California, growing crops throughout the state can account for up to 80% of the total water use. Water is not only a health and safety need of millions of people, it is a vital resource for keeping the economic system flourishing. Some of these topics and a discussion of the various uses of water will be covered throughout this course.

    First, we will take a look at the classes offered in the Water Systems Technology program. There are 11 different classes, including Water 020. Each class focuses on different topics in order for the student to gain unique perspectives on the water industry as a whole and to gain an understanding on specific areas to help the student become a certified operator within specific fields. The courses are broken into several broad categories:

    General Topics

    • Water 020 – Introduction to Water Systems Technology
    • Water 032 – Water Supply
    • Water 035 – Water Quality

    Mathematics

    • Water 030 – Introduction to Waterworks Mathematics
    • Water 031 – Advanced Waterworks Mathematics

    Drinking Water Distribution

    • Water 040 – Water Distribution Operator I
    • Water 041 – Water Distribution Operator II

    Drinking Water Treatment

    • Water 050 – Water Treatment Operator I
    • Water 051 – Water Treatment Operator II

    Wastewater Treatment

    • Water 060 – Wastewater Treatment Processes I
    • Water 061 – Wastewater Treatment Processes II

    The following are general descriptions of each course within the program. Water 020 aims to introduce you to the program as a whole and provide a high-level overview of the various topics covered throughout the program.

    Water 020 – Introduction to Water Systems Technology

    This course explores the technologies, potential career opportunities, and the State of California certification requirements in the water industry. Introduction to Water Systems Technology is an introductory course that introduces the student to the various career opportunities within the industry. The course also provides a brief description and overview of each course within the program. Although Water 020 is a required course to earn an A.S. degree in Water System Technology, it is designed for students that are not currently in the industry and provides a high-level overview for those seeking a new career path.

    Water 020 begins with a general description of the entire Water Systems Technology program, with a brief introduction to each of the courses offered in the program. The course reviews the requirements of Operator Certification regulations that were part of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments. It examines dozens of career opportunities and assists the student with preparing an effective cover letter, résumé, and application for entry-level positions within the industry. Other topics of discussion include drinking water and wastewater quality, treatment, distribution, supply, use, conservation, and recycling.

    Water 030 – Waterworks Mathematics

    Water 030 is an introduction to waterworks mathematics. Math plays an important role in water systems technology and this course prepares the student for basic level water related math problems. The course begins with a review in basic mathematical principles such as fractions, decimals, percentages, and equations. Memorization is discouraged in this course, which is why the first few weeks are designed to reintroduce basic math topics to build a foundation for water-related concepts. There is plenty of information to memorize within this program, so understanding how to “solve” math problems is a more efficient approach than memorizing. The course focuses on UNITS as an underlying theme. Numbers without units are meaningless and in the word of water units such as gallons, cubic feet, miles, inches, minutes, liters, acre-feet, and million gallons are used routinely. Understanding how to use these types of units and the concepts introduced in this course will give the student enough background to pass the math portion of lower level certification exams and a foundation to tackle more complex and advanced water related math topics.

    Entry-level topics include the calculation of areas, volumes, and circumferences, chemical dosage, pressure, flow rate, and beginning treatment process mathematics. There are no prerequisites for this course, but being able to solve elementary math level questions is desired. However, even if the student has taken a math class in years, the first few weeks of this course will bring back memories of teachers of the past!

    Water 031 – Advanced Waterworks Mathematics

    Water 031 builds on the topics learned in Water 030. Water 030 is a prerequisite for taking Water 031. However, if a student has previously taken a college level math course or has strong math skills they can petition to “test out” of the Water 030 prerequisite. If approved, a Water 030 test will be administered. If the student passes the exam they are allowed to attend Water 031 without completing Water 030.

    Water 031 moves at a rapid pace and spends only a small amount of time reviewing information learned in Water 030. The course covers math concepts and ideas preparing the student for advanced certification exams. Discussions of advanced water distribution and treatment processes and concepts are also incorporated into each lesson in order to present practical applications of the math topics.

    The course provides advanced instruction on topics covered in Water 030, such as chemical dosage, treatment processes, flow rates, pressure, and volume calculations. In addition, the course introduces new concepts in the areas of horsepower, pump efficiency, blending, and budget calculations.

    Water 032 – Water Supply

    Water 032 takes an overall look of water supplies. This course explores the sources of drinking water supplies with a special emphasis of water in California. The course looks at the various uses of water from residential, commercial, and industrial, to irrigation landscaping water demands. Discussions will include the differences between surface and groundwater supplies, and emergency water sources. Water quality and source water protection are other topics covered in this broad overview course of water supply principles. Water 032 begins with a general overview of the hydrologic water cycle, which illustrates the point of water’s endless cycle through various phases (gas, liquid, and solid.) The course wraps up with a discussion of water conservation and alternative sources of supply such as recycled water.

    Water 035 – Water Quality

    Water quality is one of the most important aspects of drinking water. There are numerous state and federal regulations that water utilities must adhere to. It is the number one issue customers are most concerned about. Water 035 examines the chemical and microbiological principles of water and applies them to drinking water quality. The course also focuses on major water quality regulations and how and why they are set at their respective values.

    The remaining courses offered in Water Systems Technology are grouped by category within the water industry. These three (3) main disciplines within the industry are Water Distribution, Drinking Water Treatment, and Wastewater. Whether the student wants to work in distribution, treatment, or wastewater, all three of these require state certification. Each of these courses prepares the student for their respective certification exams as well as valuable information within each discipline to help the student succeed as a water professional.

    Water 040 – Water Distribution Operator I

    Water 040 introduces basic concepts and processes of drinking water distribution systems. It provides a wide range of knowledge including a general background of drinking water sources, regulations, water system design, and various distribution system components and appurtenances. Water distribution is followed from the source to the tap in this introductory level course.

    Water 040 also assists the student in the preparation of Division of Drinking Water Distribution Operator Certification Exams for Grades D1 and D2. These certification exams require a broad range of entry-level knowledge of water distribution systems. Water 040 is designed to provide the knowledge and understanding needed to pass these exams and to provide the student with general understanding of how distribution systems operate.

    Water 041 – Water Distribution Operator II

    Water 041 builds on the knowledge gained in Water 040 and presents the student with an intermediate to advanced level understanding of water distribution systems. Topics covered in Water 040 will be expanded in Water 041 creating a deeper understanding of how the various systems are inter-related.

    Water 041 will assist the student in their preparation for Division of Drinking Water Certification Exams for Grades D3 and D4. These intermediate and advanced certification exams take the practices and principles of the Grade D1 and D2 exams and investigates a more in depth understanding of those topics. Although Water 040 is not a prerequisite for taking Water 041, it is recommended.

    Water 050 – Water Treatment Plant Operation Processes I

    Similar to Water 040, Water 050 introduces basic concepts and processes to drinking water treatment. Basic operating principles and techniques of direct filtration and conventional surface water treatment plant processes of coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, and filtration. In addition, an overview and basic discussion of various disinfection processes are covered.

    Water 050 will assist the student in their preparation for Division of Drinking Water Certification Exams for Grades T1 and T2. These certification exams require a broad range of entry-level knowledge of drinking water treatment systems. Water 050 is designed to provide the knowledge and understanding needed to pass these exams and to provide the student with the understanding of how drinking water treatment plants operate.

    Water 052 – Water Treatment Plant Operation Processes II

    Similar to Water 041, Water 052 builds on the knowledge gained in Water 050. Water 050 topics are discussed at the intermediate and advanced levels of understanding. Additional water treatment principles are introduced and a complete understanding of drinking water treatment processes is expected.

    Water 052 will assist the student in their preparation for Division of Drinking Water Certification Exams for Grades T3 and T4. These intermediate and advanced certification exams take the practices and principles of the Grade T1 and T2 exams and looks into a more in-depth understanding of those topics. Although Water 050 is not a prerequisite for taking Water 052, it is recommended.

    Water 060 – Wastewater Treatment Processes I

    Water 060 continues the pattern of the distribution and drinking water treatment course. Water 060 is an introduction to wastewater treatment plant operations. After water is used by the consumer, it typically flows through an underground sewer piping system to a Water Reclamation Plant (WRP) or Wastewater Treatment Plant (WTP) for treatment before it is discharged back into the environment. This course takes an introductory look at the basic treatment processes wastewater goes through.

    Similarly to drinking water certification exams, there are a series of certification exams for wastewater treatment plant operators. These exams are administered by the State Water Resources Control Board. This course is designed to assist the student in preparation for the introductory exams.

    Water 061 – Wastewater Treatment Processes II

    In Water 061 the treatment processes discussed in Water 060 will be expanded upon to provide the student with intermediate and advanced level knowledge of wastewater treatment principles and practices.

    Water 061 is designed to assist the student in preparation for the intermediate and advanced certification exams. Although Water 060 is not a prerequisite for taking Water 061, it is recommended.

    Water Systems Technology Program

    The program has an overarching goal referred to as Student Learning Outcome (SLO) that states, “Students will be able to demonstrate proficiency in the core skills and knowledge required for employment in the water industry.” In order to earn a Certificate of Achievement in Water Systems Technology, a total of 28 units are required. A student must take fifteen (15) “core” units, plus six (6) additional elective units. In addition to the program certificate, a student can earn an Associate in Science Degree in Water Systems Technology after completing the 28 program units plus the general educational requirements.

    The program requires the following fifteen (15) units;

    • Water 020 – Introduction to Water Systems Technology
    • Water 030 – Waterworks Mathematics
    • Water 031 – Advanced Waterworks Mathematics
    • Water 032 – Water Supply
    • Water 035 – Water Quality

    The remaining six (6) units are made up of two of the following;

    • Water 040 – Water Distribution Operator I
    • Water 041 – Water Distribution Operator II

    OR

    • Water 050 – Water Treatment Plant Operation Processes I
    • Water 052 – Water Treatment Plant Operation Processes II

    OR

    • Water 060 – Wastewater Treatment Processes I
    • Water 061 – Wastewater Treatment Processes II

    As with all “classroom” learning, it is only part of what is required to be a successful water worker. Education is a valuable resource and can provide general knowledge and information about process and theories, but nothing can compare to actual on the job training and experience. In any industry or any field, job experience is something most employers would like to see in an applicant. However, in order to gain on the job experience, you must be employed. Sometimes in order to get employed, you need experience. You can see the apparent problems with this conundrum and you may experience it when you start searching for work. When applying for a job, there are a couple of things that can be done to help combat this challenge. First, you may have to start at the “bottom.” The bottom can be an entry level position or it might be a position where you have some experience but the job might not necessarily be the one you are seeking. Never lose sight of your ultimate goal but sometimes you will need to take several steps before you get there. For example, ABC Water Agency might be hiring for a Customer Service Representative and you might be looking for a Water Utility Operator position. The problem is that you do not have any experience as a utility operator. However, you might have some experience in customer service. Why not apply for the Customer Service Representative position? Sometimes, just getting your “foot in the door” is enough to help gain the experience needed. Once you start working for a water utility, you will begin to hear the terminology used, learn how the business operates, and gain a general understanding of operations. Many times it is easier to transfer from one department to another than it is getting hired from the outside. Sometimes agencies open up positions to existing employees before they start looking on the outside. Getting a job within the industry you want to work in can be the first step to getting your career started and landing the position you are seeking. Second, you can try to tailor your experience to fit with some of the required experience for a specific job. For example, you may have worked in some type of construction related business in the past. You can try and use this as experience for some field type positions. Maybe the experience is not directly related, but you can try and word the experience on a resume to fit the job or at least demonstrated some of the same qualities that a similar position might require. Preparing cover letters, resumes, and applications will be discussed later in this text.

    Chapter 3 of this text takes an in depth look at the various career opportunities in the industry. There are always general types of jobs in most industries such as customer service, accounting, human resources, etc. Remember, that these types of jobs might just lead into the career you are seeking. However, you might also find a very rewarding career in one of these disciplines too. Working in water and wastewater provides dozens of opportunities in a variety of different areas. Find what works for you and you’ll have a successful and productive career.


    1.1: Introduction to Water Systems Technology is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by College of the Canyons.

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