Last updated July 27, 2018

Saskatchewan is currently facing a crisis in the water and wastewater industry, many of the operators in the smaller communities and in the larger ones are retiring and the new wave of operators is emerging.

New operators no longer want to do the job those retiring have done for 30+ years which includes but is not limited to snow removal, street sweeping, Christmas decorations on lamp posts, catching skunks and other wildlife and many more activities too numerous to name.

The new breed of operators wants to do just what the name implies and that is to operate.

With the Regina Wastewater Treatment Plant moving to privatization many groups are sure to start following suit.

It used to be that the city jobs were the most sought after but now many flock to the private industry jobs that pay more and have pensions intact when employees are ready to retire.

Saskatchewan water and wastewater workers

In today’s city culture money that is ear marked to be spent on aging water infrastructure can be moved into snow removal budgets at the blink of an eye if the budget needs to be tweaked to allow for a higher than normal snow fall.

Small towns have had the same operator for the past 30 years and when they go to hire a replacement will soon learn the cold hard truth, that today’s operator doesn’t want the old job – they want the new job.

The wage that worked for years with the operator who retired will no longer work and many communities will start to realize that they are not going to find a replacement for their operator as easily as they thought.

It is unfortunate in today’s water and wastewater industry that appreciation for the operator often comes well after they have retired.

In the next several years we are going to start seeing a trend in Saskatchewan – Regional Water and Wastewater Systems.

These systems will be run by groups like Sask Water, who have been around for a long time and are currently the group most communities go to, and Epcor, who is new to Saskatchewan but with the running of the Regina WWTP will begin to work their way into other parts of the province as well.

Regina’s move with the Wastewater Plant being run by Epcor brings up another question is privatization the answer?

For many privatization is a good idea, education and certification will no longer be an issue; after all no one want s to be the company found to not be in compliance especially with the "Walkerton Crisis, North Battleford and Prince Albert wants fresh in the minds of residents.

Privatization means that increases will be done as they need to be in face of growing costs rather than large increases every so many years.

For several decades the city was considered the place to work, with unions, great pensions, and a higher salary now, it is the corporations offering the highest salaries and benefits while the cities struggle to have enough qualified operators running the plants and to find the funds to pay for the current operators to attend educational course.

A real part of the problem would be the lack of appreciation many in the water industry receive.

Water is essential to all areas of life and yet it is not viewed as essential until a tap is turned on or a toilet attempts to flush and nothing happens.

Then the fireworks start and the public outcry comes and people finally realize that maybe they should care about water.

So it all boils down to this, Saskatchewan is in a crisis mode operators are retiring and there is no one there to take their place.

What is needed?

The government needs to take a look at the situation and realize that the ministers responsible for the various areas need to take a good hard look at what is happening in their areas and look for solutions to help out these communities and actually listen when the communities seek them out with their issues.

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