The water operator plays an important role in water safety; however, little published research exists that has examined this role. The purpose of this study was to develop a greater understanding of the experience, existing knowledge, confidence and future training needs of the small, non-community drinking water operator in Ontario in order to help guide future outreach and training opportunities. A cross-sectional telephone survey of 332 small, non-community drinking water operators in Ontario was conducted in July and August 2011. Survey questions pertained to respondents' experience as operators, formal training, perceived importance of water safety issues, confidence in handling water safety issues, and future training needs. Approximately 16% (54/330) of respondents had one year or less experience as a water operator, and 60% (199/332) reported that being a water operator was not a chosen profession. Only 37% (124/332) of operators reported completing operator training. Respondents reported a preference for online training courses or on-site training (compared with a classroom setting). Low training rates, inexperience, and in certain situations, low confidence, among many small water system operators highlight a need to provide continued support to the development of ongoing training opportunities in this population.

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