Practical Certification Examinations

Ontario now offers on-site practical certification examinations for experienced operators of First Nations drinking water systems as an alternative to the written certification exams. This allows experienced operators to demonstrate their knowledge and obtain provincial certification.

For the delivery of the practical certification examinations, Ontario has partnered with the Aboriginal Water and Wastewater Association of Ontario (AWWAO).

A practical certification examination is held at the operator’s drinking water facility and delivered by an assessor with experience working with First Nations. The exam includes questions that allow the operator to answer by explaining or demonstrating how they operate their facility. Exam questions are based on the processes and equipment used at the operator’s facility. For example, if your facility does not have an ultraviolet (UV) treatment process, there will be no UV treatment questions on the exam.

Upon successful completion of a practical certification examination, the operator will receive a Conditional Certificate that is valid only in the First Nation community where they work.

If you work in multiple systems of the same type, the practical certification examination will occur in the highest class facility. For example, if you work in both a Class 1 and a Class 2 Water treatment facility, the exam will occur at the Class 2 facility, but the exam result will apply to both facilities.

The operator must have:

  1. Completed Grade 12 in Ontario or have other qualifications that the Director considers equivalent.
  2. Completed the Entry-Level Course for Drinking Water Operators, delivered by the Walkerton Clean Water Centre (WCWC) or through an Ontario College.

The Entry-Level Course for Drinking Water Operators for First Nations is being offered at no fee with travel and accommodation expenses reimbursed for operators in First Nations communities in Ontario. For scheduled dates and locations visit

  1. Hands-on experience at the type of subsystem on which they will be tested:
  • Class 1 exam – 6 years’ operating experience
  • Class 2 exam – 8 years’ operating experience
  • Class 3 exam – 10 years’ operating experience, of which 2 years must be as an OIC in a Class 2 subsystem or higher.

Rules for calculating operational experience can be found in Guideline 3.4 – Experience as a Drinking Water Operator. All operating experience will be taken into account when calculating experience, including experience obtained in systems other than the system where the operator will be assessed.

  1. Not held a valid Class 1 to 4 drinking water operator certificate(s) for over 1 year that is applicable to the subsystem on which they will be tested. For example, if you are being assessed for a water treatment system, you cannot have held a Class 1 to 4 water treatment certificate for over one year.
  • Where an operator has previously held a Class 1-4 drinking water certificate, they must have attempted the written exam at least once within the past 5 years.

Operators who hold a valid Operator-in-Training (OIT) certificate are eligible to take the Practical Exam, but they must have attempted the class 1 written exam at least once within the past 5 years.

    1. Paid the required fees
    2. A letter of support from the First Nation community.The letter of support may be from the plant supervisor, Chief and Council or public works manager. The letter should indicate an understanding that the operator would be conditionally certified through the Practical Exam, and that permission is given for an assessor to administer the exam within the First Nation community and drinking water system. Where the letter is not from the Chief and Council, they should be copied to indicate that they are aware of the exam.
  1. Contact the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office (OWWCO) about taking the practical certification examination. Call OWWCO at 1-877-231-2122 or send an email to
  2. OWWCO will follow up with you to get more information about your work as an operator.
  3. OWWCO will send you a partially completed Practical Certification Examination form, together with a brief explanation of how the exam is conducted and how you can prepare for the exam.
  4. Complete the application form and send it to OWWCO along with payment and the required supporting documents.
    • A copy of current (and previous, if applicable) job description(s) (if not on file)
    • Proof of Grade 12 or equivalent (if not on file)
    • A letter from an authorized representative supporting conditional certification through practical certification examination.
    • Copy of the certificate for MOECC’s Mandatory Entry-Level Drinking Water Operator course (if not already on file)
    • Proof of postsecondary education and copies of education/training certificates (if not already on file)

Submit your application to:

Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office
302 The East Mall, Suite 600
Etobicoke, ON M9B 6C7
Fax: (416) 231-2107

Payment is required with each completed application, and can be made by Visa, MasterCard, cheque, or money order. If paying by cheque or money order, please make the payment out to the Minister of Finance.

Upon receiving your completed application form and confirming you meet the eligibility requirements, an Examination Assessor will contact you and your supervisor to make the necessary arrangements and to discuss the features of your system so that they can develop your exam.

Practical examination fee $140.00
Conditional certificate issuance fee $175.00*

*Certificate issuance fee is only collected if you pass the exam