Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators

risk level
Based on 55 votes
by 2031
or $24.81 hourly
as of 2022

Automation risk

58% (Moderate Risk)

Moderate Risk (41-60%): Occupations with a moderate risk of automation usually involve routine tasks but still require some human judgment and interaction.

More information on what this score is, and how it is calculated is available here.

Some quite important qualities of the job are difficult to automate:

  • Assisting and Caring for Others

  • Manual Dexterity

User poll

39% chance of full automation within the next two decades

Our visitors have voted that there is a small chance this occupation will be replaced. However, the automation risk level we have generated suggests a higher chance of automation: 58% chance of automation.

What do you think the risk of automation is?

What is the likelihood that this occupation will be replaced by robots or AI in the next 20 years?


Very slow growth relative to other professions.

The number of 'Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators' job openings is expected to decline by 6.9% by 2031

Total employment, and estimated job openings

* Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the period between 2021 and 2031.
Updated projections are due Sep 2023.


Moderately paid relative to other professions

In 2022, the median annual wage for 'Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators' was $51,600, or $24.81 per hour

'Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators' were paid 11.4% higher than the national median wage, which stood at $46,310

Wages over time

* Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics


Greater range of job opportunities compared to other professions

As of 2022 there were 119,350 people employed as Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators within the United States.

This represents around 0.08% of the employed workforce across the country.

Put another way, around 1 in 1 thousand people are employed as Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators.

Job description

Operate or control an entire process or system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater.

SOC Code: 51-8031.00


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Water Operator (Small chance) says
This industry has many issues when it comes to funding, stemming from a rapidly shrinking revenue stream due to failing economics in large urban centers and rapidly draining federal and state funds for maintenance of water infrastructure.

The risk involved with automating these specific jobs is too high, and the cost too great to cover all cases and mitigate all the risks, meaning these jobs should be safe for the future. Paradoxically, despite their absurd importance, funding seems to always get leaner every year.

Although many facets could be automated, integrating these automated systems into the majority of dilapidated infrastructure would be too cumbersome to be a real issue.
Feb 10, 2022 at 04:43 PM
Waddlebrow (Likely) says
Most dosages, valve changing and treatments are already automated and we’re just babysitting the programs to ensure they run correctly
Jul 27, 2021 at 12:43 AM
paul says
This job is already fully automated, most of the job is monitoring the systems to see if they're working properly, taking samples here and there, and ensuring the systems are working properly. Humans have a biased view to have ourselves as a last-line-of-defence, because in a sense we're also dealing with the health of an entire population.
I can see complications resulting from system upgrades or increasing efficiency by reducing workers and having people take on more responsibilities with more complex systems, but it will likely never be 100% automated because of our bias..
Apr 01, 2021 at 02:20 PM
Christopher (Small chance) says
Many functions in this industry could be automated -- and should be, in my opinion. But very few systems apply best available technology, and so many do not even fund basic infrastructure maintenance. I believe robots will replace or supplement operators very little within the next 2 decades.
Feb 17, 2021 at 04:32 AM
Doug Flores (Small chance) says
This job takes into account all aspects of being human. You have to listen to the equipment, see changes in the processes, take into account the smell of the wastewater and be able to make changes to the equipment to maintain safe effluent. The operator has to take samples and perform the appropriate tests to ensure quality discharge of the plant.
Jul 30, 2019 at 02:51 PM
Annon says
Thanks for the info. Yeah, it sounds like it will not be 100% automated, but technology will just make the job a little easier. Technology will be there to help out.
Jun 29, 2020 at 02:23 PM
Sarah (Small chance) says
I think wastewater treatment could be done partially be done by robots. I wish we have apps to check if the water is safe.
Jul 02, 2019 at 08:54 PM
Zach (Small chance) says
100%. I really would like more automated tests and more frequent testing done not just in the plant but in the collection system. I've been asking for portable SCADA tablets for well over 2-3 years now. Maybe one day..
Jul 27, 2021 at 08:05 AM

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