RIDEM Wastewater Sector Salary Survey

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Water Resources conducted a salary survey in early 2023 that collected current salary/wage and benefit data for employees in specific occupations in the wastewater sector. Information provided to RIDEM has indicated that since COVID-19, wastewater treatment facilities often struggle to recruit and/or retain qualified employees, which has the potential to impact the proper operations and maintenance of those critical facilities. With cooperation from the RI Department of Labor and Training (RIDLT) and the wastewater sector itself, RIDEM initiated a survey of sector wages, salaries, and benefits in response to these concerns.

It must be noted that every wastewater treatment facility provided data about their staff’s wages or annual salaries, as well as benefit data and information on paid time off. This impressive 100% response rate makes this summary report a telling snapshot of the entire industry at a time when many industries and professions struggle to attract and retain qualified and dedicated workers.

Major Findings

  • Average wages for operator positions are generally equivalent to comparable occupations requiring only a high-school degree, however wage ranges for those comparable occupations are often higher.
  • Wages and/or salaries for other sector occupations, such as physical and electrical maintenance, vary in comparison with statewide occupational data.
  • Wastewater chemists appear significantly underpaid when compared to statewide data.
  • Potential for financial advancement is generally average to low throughout all surveyed occupations, more so for municipally run facilities.
  • Sector benefits are generally high among the surveyed occupations, more so for municipal and quasi-state-run facilities.
  • Respondents identified that holiday and weekend work requirements, shift assignments, working conditions, duties, and licensure requirements, may be deterring entry-level candidate interest and retention.
  • Respondents identified job security, familiarity with one’s present position, and/or the mission of clean water as the most important considerations for sector retention among all surveyed occupations, rather than wages/salaries, benefits, or opportunities to learn.

Did you know?

  • 293 licensed wastewater operators & maintenance staff currently working in RI.

  • 19 wastewater treatment facilities, which have been growing in complexity over the past several decades with ever-tightening discharge permits.

  • 120 million gallons of residential and commercial wastewater collected, conveyed, and treated before being discharged back into nature.

  • Must operate 24/7/365—through storms, flooding, and global pandemics!

Clean Water Week

With an astounding 400+ miles of coastline, clean water is at the center of our way of life in Rhode Island. Join us during Clean Water Week, April 23-29, 2023, and get a deeper look at the vital and complex community service that protects our waterways and our environment from pollution. The Rhode Island Clean Water Association (RICWA) will be sponsoring Open Houses at five of the state’s water resource recovery facilities—the “hidden in plain sight” infrastructure that you pay for. You will be amazed at the process for making clean water! Learn more