The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. Tribal Water Systems program (TWS) provides trainings for Tribal personnel who are responsible for the production, treatment and distribution of drinking water for public consumption, as well as the collection and treatment of wastewater. The goal of the program is to provide each Tribal utility with the means to protect public health. To achieve this goal, the program makes training available for Tribal drinking water and wastewater system operators; training that allows them to operate their systems to the best of their systems’ capabilities. The program also serves as a clearinghouse of information for the tribes, providing updates on current water and wastewater regulations and providing new trainings on an “as needed” basis.
Tribal Operator Certification Training
The program administers the TWS Operator Certification Program for the operator to be examined and rated, demonstrating his/her level of competency in operating and maintaining Tribal facilities. The certification program was developed exclusively to meet the needs of water and wastewater operators working on Indian lands by providing an equivalent alternative to state operator certification. Water/wastewater operator certification verifies that an operator has obtained a certain level of competency through practical experience and technical training. The program provides professional certification that is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
ITCA contracts with subject matter experts, who are familiar with Tribal systems and have worked in/with Tribal water or wastewater facilities, to provide instruction in the area of their expertise. These consultants teach up-to-date information to the training participants. Training manuals are provided for each training module and later serve as a reference for some of the operator basics. By providing the classroom instruction and as much hands-on training as possible, the operators are better prepared to take the certification examinations. The TWS program currently offers training in the following topic areas and certification levels, with other topic areas in development.
- Water Treatment-Level 1 & 2 & 3
- Water Distribution-Level 1 & 2 & 3
- Wastewater Collections-Level 1 & Level 2
- Wastewater Treatment (Activated Sludge)-Level 1 & 2 & 3
Professional Development Hour (PDH) Training
The U.S. EPA, in cooperation with Tribes, developed the Tribal Drinking Water Operator Certification Guidelines. For the purpose of protecting public health, these guidelines specify that once certified, water operators must continue their education by obtaining a minimum level of approved professional development training as a condition of renewing their operator certification.
The Tribal Water & Wastewater Operator Certification Program of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. (the ITCA Program) defines “Training Contact Hours” as a basic unit of measure of training based upon two fully documented factors: (1) time spent actively and engagingly expanding ones career-based knowledge, and (2) in a distinct subject matter. Therefore, a full sixty minutes of learning on a specific subject matter, as verified and documented by the training or a third party, constitutes a single Training Contact Hour. The minimum level of training required by the ITCA Program for certification renewal is thirty (30) Training Contact Hours that have been approved and accepted by ITCA as renewal Professional Development Hours (PDHs). To be accepted by ITCA as renewal PDHs, the training hours must be on topics that are essential to the operation and maintenance of the operator’s utility system(s) and the trainings must have been taken during the active certification time period (see endnote below). Furthermore, ten (10) of the thirty renewal PDHs must specifically be in the operator’s area of certification (certification specific).
 ITCA operator certification is issued for a time period of no greater than three (3) years. Certification may be issued for time periods less than three years to accommodate special circumstances. To apply for certification renewal, a completed Renewal Application Form must be submitted to ITCA six (6) months prior to a certification’s expiration date and must include attached copies of documents showing proof of training attendance. However, applications for renewal may be submitted to ITCA as early as one (1) year prior to the certification’s expiration date and shall not be submitted less than thirty (30) calendar days prior to the certification’s expiration date.