Water distribution/sewerage workers look after pipes and mains that supply homes and businesses with water and remove waste water and sewage. They carry out planned maintenance work and also respond to emergencies such as mending burst pipes and major leaks.

Their duties include:

  • digging holes by hand or using mechanical digging equipment
  • using maps and plans to trace where they need to dig
  • laying and repairing mains and pipes
  • using closed circuit TV check for blockages in pipes and drains
  • clearing blockages using a variety of tools and equipment such as high pressure water jets
  • installing water meters and hydrants
  • maintaining vehicles and equipment
  • recording details of jobs done and materials used.

They must follow safety procedures at all times.

Hours and Environment

As a water distribution/sewerage worker you will usually work 37 hours a week.

You may sometimes need to take part in a standby rota and work nights and weekends if emergencies happen outside normal working hours. You may also need to work paid overtime if necessary to complete a job.

You will often work outside in all weather conditions, or inside large sewerage and water systems. Conditions may be wet, dirty and smelly, so you will use protective clothing including breathing apparatus. You may have direct contact with unpleasant substances.

The work can be very physical, involving bending and lifting and using heavy machinery.

Skills and Interests

To be a water distribution/sewerage worker you need:

  • good practical skills
  • physical fitness
  • willingness to work outside in all weather conditions
  • the ability to cope with unpleasant smells and substances
  • willingness to work unsocial hours
  • the ability to follow detailed instructions
  • awareness of health and safety
  • good communication skills, for dealing with the public.

A driving licence is often required.


You do not always need qualifications to become a water distribution/sewage worker, although some employers may ask for some GCSEs/S grades or equivalent qualifications like NVQs. Check entry requirements with individual employers – you can find company contact details from the Water UK website (see Further Information section below).

You may be able to get into this job through an apprenticeship scheme. Funding for apprenticeships is available for 16-24 year olds and some over-25s. To find out more, visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk. For information about apprenticeships in other parts of the UK, see ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland.

For an apprenticeship you will usually need four GCSEs (A-C)/S grades (1-3), including maths, English, and another relevant subject such as science, engineering or design and technology.

If you are not joining the industry through an apprenticeship scheme, you will find it useful to have previous experience or qualifications in construction, plumbing, building services engineering or plant maintenance.

Employers may expect you to be registered in a safety passport scheme – see the Training section below for more details of schemes.


You will be trained on the job by experienced staff. Your training will usually also include some formal courses at a training centre. You may also work towards one or more of the following NVQs/SVQs:

  • Levels 1, 2 and 3 Network Construction Operations (Water)
  • Level 2 Water Distribution Control
  • Level 2 Water Industry Operations (Sewerage Maintenance)
  • Levels 2 and 3 Leakage Control
  • Level 3 Maintain Water Supply (Network).

See the Energy & Utility Skills website for more details and a list of training providers.

Many employers insist that you are registered in an appropriate safety passport scheme before being allowed to work on site. Although this is not yet a legal requirement, it will be law by 2010. To register, you must hold an NVQ/SVQ or acceptable equivalent, and pass a health and safety assessment.

The following safety passport schemes are suitable:

  • Water Sector Health, Safety and Environmental Passport
  • National Water Hygiene Scheme
  • Network Construction Operations for Water.

See the Energy & Utility Skills Register website for more details of the schemes and a list of training centres.


As a water distribution/sewerage worker you could be employed by regional water companies or subcontracting companies.

You could progress to become a team leader or a manager. With further training and study, you could become an engineering technician or an incorporated water engineer.

Annual Income

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Trainee water treatment workers can start on around £10,000 a year.
After completing an apprenticeship this can rise to around £14,000 to £16,000.
Water/sewerage operatives with experience and qualifications earn between £18,000 and £25,000.

Further information

Friars Gate Two
1011 Stratford Road
B90 4BN
Tel: 0845 077 9922


Tel: 0845 077 9922


1 Queen Anne’s Gate