About UNEP
United Nations Environment Programme
Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
top image
space space space
Newsletter and Technical Publications
<International Source Book On Environmentally Sound Technologies
for Wastewater and Stormwater Management>


Several of the national water pollution control associations in Western Europe run programmes for operational personnel. The German model is of particular interest because in that country, operators of water supply and wastewater works are a legally recognized trade since 1984 as part of the national system which exists for the certification in many other trades. As part of this system, workers are trained at trade schools during their apprenticeship, and examined and certificated by government boards at the State level. Within the same system, "Master Technicians for STPs" were recognized already in 1987 for the operation of sewage treatment works. At the lower level, "Technicians" are trained for both network operations and STPs. The German Association for the Water Environment (ATV) has developed most of the training material and participates in the training and examination.

The system has enhanced the quality and the standing of operation and maintenance personnel and has helped to create beneficial conditions of employment, including negotiated remuneration. It has also been instrumental ameliorating the problem of the staffing of operation and maintenance which is plaguing sewage works in so many countries, especially the developing ones.

Training required to take the examination for certification recognizes three main fields, i.e. water supply, wastewater and solid waste. There are more than 10 000 sewage treatment plants in Germany and they employ about skilled 25000 workers. The ATV has trained more than 18000 during the last 35 years.

The scheme is exhibited in Figure 6.12 and information on the two categories of certificated technicians is included in Tables 6.18 and 6.19.

Table 6.18: Fields of activity and skills required of certificated Technicians

Certificated Sewer Technicians Certificated STP Technicians
Field of activity:
= Monitoring and servicing of network, operation and maintenance of pumping stations, vehicles, apparatus, aids, accident prevention and rescue equipment.
= Execution of simple repairs.
= Collaboration in monitoring indirect discharges on instruction by supervisors.
Knowledge and skill required:
= Purpose, types and properties of systems, including combined and separate systems, pressure and vacuum systems; and special structures.
= On-site sanitation.
= Sewer inspection with TV.
= Methods for the cleaning of sewers.
= Occupational risks and their prevention.
= Keeping operational log.
Field of activity:
= Carrying out simple tasks on sewage treatment plants, including monitoring, operation and maintenance of machinery, equipment and aids.
= Simple repairs.
Knowledge and skill required:
= Water management, wastewater discharge, stormwater relief
= Types, amounts and properties of wastewater and sludge.
= Treatment processes and associated installations and machinery, and their functioning
= Accident prevention: regulations, handling protective equipment.
= Monitoring, operation and maintenance of facilities in accordance with instructions, operating data and measurements, and recognition of faults. Small repairs.
= Simple measurements and evaluations.
= Maintenance of an operational log.
Source: ATV, 1999

To take the exam for Master Technician, applicants must have three years experience as certificated operator before, or have 4 years experience in wastewater operations if qualified in a similar trade, or 5 years experience in the operation of a wastewater system if qualified in a dissimilar trade, or 8 years if without a trade qualification.

Figure 6.12: Prerequisites for Technicians and Master Technicians

Source: ATV, 1999


Taken together, the ATV runs a five-component programme as listed below. For all components, syllabuses and teaching material is available (the latter only for participants):

  • ATV Basic Courses for skilled workers for sewer systems or sewage treatment plants.
  • Preparation for the qualifying examinations for “certificated Sewer and/or Sewage Treatment Plant TechnicianE Table 18 exhibits their field of activity and the knowledge and skills they must have.
  • Courses for "Master Technicians" the operation and maintenance of STPs. The courses are offered both formal or by correspondence. Once they have passed the Master's examination, they are authorized to independently operate systems/plants serving a population of between 200 000 and 30 000. Table 19 contains a summary of the subjects covered during the training for master operator. They are authorized make independent decisions, including:
    • directing and managing the operation;
    • supervising the functioning of the process, the components and the machinery;
    • occupational safety and accident prevention;
    • training and supervision of operators;
    • participation in the planning of modifications of the system.
  • Continuing education (at all levels of staff). Advanced training courses, seminars, info-days, specialists´ cooperation with universities, and group training with other specialist associations are organized and conducted.
  • Continuing training in special subjects for supervisors and managers, engineers and scientists. For 1999, more than 80 activities are planned.

Table 6.19: Main subjects taught for Master Technicians for sewage treatment plants

Part 1: General
Basics of cost effective management
Basics of effective legal management
Basics of team work in operation and maintenance
Part 2: Technical
Mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology
Basics of data processing
Measurement and control mechanisms
Scientific principles concerning wastewater collection and treatment - municipal and industrial
Occupational safety
Sewage treatment
Sludge treatment and use
Sampling and analytical methods
Processing of operational data
Legal provisions
Part 3: Vocational matters
Basics of vocational training
Planning education and training
Carrier development
Legal matters

Source: ATV, 1999

      Main Menu


  • Brochure
  • IETC Brochure

  • International Year of Forests
  • International Year of Forests

  • World Environment Day
  • ??????

  • UNEP Campaign
  • UNite to Combat Climate Change