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Hydrologic Technicians Certification Program

Level I Information | Level II Information | Level III Information | Application | Reference Form

On July 1, 2007, The American Institute of Hydrology (AIH) begun to receive applications for certification of Hydrologic Technicians throughout the United States and many international countries. This program is open to all categories of Hydrologic Technician and all levels of experience. This page discusses the formation of the certification program and the application process to become certified. A brief history of the development of this program will help understand the importance of the program.

The Need for the Hydrologic Technician Program

For many years, the members of AIH have discussed the value of certifying hydrologic technicians. It has been duly noted that the success of any hydrology project always depends on the training and experience of technicians that collect the data or make the analyses. A properly certified Hydrologic Technician provides another level of reliability and assurance that hydrology was conducted in accordance with current standards. Certification of technicians is a natural extension to professional certification and to the support of hydrology as a meaningful science. Public agencies and industry are concerned about the way data are collected with respect to standards and usability. They desire some way to define the competence of those employees that collect data used in water-resource decision making.

The Organizing Committee

AIH formed a committee combining professional hydrologists and senior level hydrologic technicians from the public and private sectors to develop a certification program for hydrologic technicians.

The Hydrologic Technician Certification Committee under direction of the Executive Committee of AIH developed implementation of a program to include hydrologic technicians in our Institute. The program is designed to certify the qualifications of those that are responsible for collecting, quality assuring, and compiling the data used in hydrology. The plan is to certify hydrologic technicians at three levels within each sub-discipline (water-quality, surface-water, and ground water). Each level will have specific continuing education, experience, and testing requirements. These requirements were developed from a set of outlines compiled by members of the committee and vetted through industry, academia, and government. A fee schedule was set with Executive Committee approval.

These professionals comprised the founding Committee:

  • Chairperson: Emitt Witt, PH
    USGS Mid-Continent Geographic Science Center
  • Jack Doyle
    USGS Idaho Water Science Center
  • Cassidy Luebbring
    MEC Water Resources, Inc
  • Dave Adams
    USGS Oklahoma Water Science Center
  • Bob Whitaker
    USGS Missouri Water Science Center
  • Brian Mailot
    USGS Ohio Water Science Center
  • Fred Morris
    USGS retired
  • Tony Laenen, PH
    AIH President
  • Rolando Bravo, PH
    AIH Executive Director

By a vote of our membership, two sections of an Article were amended to our Constitution. Section 1 addresses the creation of a Technical Division to include hydrologic technician members, and Section 2 addresses the management of that Division. Division status is the most efficient way to include technicians in our organization and give them the autonomy they need to move forward and grow.

Article XX. Technical Division

Section 1. Creation. The Institute may create a Technical Division to operate under separate by-laws and under the Institute's oversight. The mission of the Division will be to qualify and certify Hydrologic Technicians. The process to create a Division must be voted by two-thirds or more affirmative vote of all votes received from voting Members, through a mail ballot. A vote by the Institute's Professional Membership on such a change will use a time schedule and procedure determined by the Executive Committee, upon receipt and acceptance by the Institute of by-laws for the intended Division.

Section 2. Management. The Technical Division will elect a Management Committee to be composed of a Chairperson and elected officers as defined in Division Bylaws. The duties of the Division Management Committee shall be to accomplish the business of the Division as described in the Division Bylaws. The Chairperson of the Division will serve as a member of the Institute's Executive Committee as a representative of the Technical Division.

Why Certify as a Hydrologic Technician?

What Does the Hydrologic Technician Do for You?

Hydrologic Technicians at all levels works closely with Project Professionals, usually a Certified Professional Hydrologist, a Professional Engineer, or Professional Hydrogeologist in planning and conducting their project activities.

The value of the hydrologic technician to the hydrology profession is demonstrated everyday as they collect data in all weather conditions and environments, ensure representative procedures are used, ensure the proper collection of more uniform and reliable data and follow proper quality assurance procedures.

Some field activities a hydrologic technician performs:
  • Stream gage operation, maintenance, and data retrieval
  • Discharge measurement
  • Instrument calibration
  • Record keeping
  • Water quality sample collection
  • Instrument repair and troubleshooting
  • Surveying
  • Well drilling
  • Data compilation and review
  • Database management
  • Web site maintenance
  • Publish data reports
  • Evaluate new instrumentation
  • Develop new instrumentation, and
  • Ground water level monitoring

Fee Structure

The Certification Program

The Hydrologic Technician Certification Program has been structured on an experience level and discipline category approach. There are three experience levels defined by education and length in service. There are three discipline categories; surface water, ground water, and water quality. Each level requires the candidate to pass a written test. Each test is composed of 100 multiple choice questions. To become certified in one of these levels, the candidate must meet the requirements of that level, as follows:

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Level I Certification: All-Disciplines (General)

Requirements: This level requires at a minimum one year practical experience under the supervision of a professional hydrologist or senior level hydrologic technician or an Associate or Bachelor of Science degree with a minimum of 12 hours of water related coursework.

To achieve the Level I certification, an applicant must pass a 100-question multiple-choice test that includes the specialty areas in the following outline:

Level I Test Structure
  • General Surface Water Techniques - 30%
    1. Streamflow
      1. Streamflow measurement
      2. Current meter types and care
      3. Measurement error
      4. Role of the Stage-Discharge relation
      5. Depth measurement rules
      6. Topographic map navigation
    2. Data Collection
      1. Interrogating /servicing data logger
      2. Downloading data from logger
      3. Gage maintenance
    3. Gage construction and operation
      1. Locating stream gages
      2. Types of stage sensing instruments
      3. Power considerations
    4. Channel characteristics - open-channel hydraulics
      1. Gage station control characteristics
      2. Correction (shifts) for damaged, changed, or obstructed controls
      3. Measurement cross sections
      4. Channel bottom characteristics
      5. Flow considerations - low flow, channel losses
    5. Limnology
      1. Stratification Principles (Thermal and oxygen)
      2. Sampling equipment and operation
      3. Lake data collection techniques
  • General Ground Water Techniques - 30%
    1. Well types
      1. Drilled wells - no casing
      2. Drilled and cased wells - screens
    2. Well logging
      1. Locating and plotting - water table maps
      2. Seismology
    3. Water level measurement
      1. Tapes
      2. In-situ probed and floats
      3. Collection methods
      4. Maintenance
      5. Record keeping
  • General Water Quality Techniques - 30%
    1. Surface water samplers
      1. Types
      2. Use
      3. Maintenance
    2. Ground water samplers
      1. Types
      2. Use
      3. Maintenance
    3. Field measurements
      1. pH
      2. Specific conductance
      3. Dissolved oxygen
      4. Temperature
    4. General sampling procedure
      1. Ensuring representativeness
      2. Equal width increment sample
      3. Equal discharge increment sample
      4. Preservation
      5. Record keeping
  • Basic Electronics - 5%
    1. AC/DC circuits
    2. Ground Fault circuits
    3. Repairing and splicing wires
    4. Testing battery voltages
    5. Other questions related to the HIF basic electronics course
  • Safety - 5%
    1. Proper floatation equipment
    2. Waders and wading belts
    3. Electronic equipment around water
    4. Traffic control
    5. Bridge measurements
    6. Wading measurements
    7. Cableway measurements
    8. Hot and Cold weather survival

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Level II Certification: Discipline Specific

Level II Surface Water Level II Ground Water Level II Water Quality
Requirements: This level requires at a minimum 5 years practical experience under the supervision of a professional hydrologist or senior level hydrologic technician and a minimum of 12 continuing education credits in surface water hydrology, field techniques, and advanced monitoring equipment.

To achieve the Level II certification, an applicant must pass a 100-question multiple-choice test that includes the specialty areas in the following outline:

Requirements: This level requires at a minimum 5 years practical experience under the supervision of a professional hydrologist or senior level hydrologic technician and a minimum of 12 continuing education credits hours in ground-water/surface-water relationships, field techniques, and quality assurance.

To achieve the Level II certification, an applicant must pass a 100-question multiple-choice test that includes the specialty areas in the following outline:

Requirements: This level requires at a minimum 5 years practical experience under the supervision of a professional hydrologist or senior level hydrologic technician and a minimum of 12 continuing education credits hours in the field of water quality to include sedimentation, chemistry, and biology.

To achieve the Level II certification, an applicant must pass a 100-question multiple-choice test that includes the specialty areas in the following outline:

Level II
Surface Water Test Structure
  • Surface Water Techniques 50%
  • Specialized Techniques Not Related to In-stream Flow 20%
  • Electronics/Field Repair 10%
  • Safety 20%
Level II
Ground Water Test Structure
  • Ground Water Field Techniques 50%
  • Ground Water Data Review 15%
  • Ground Water Measurement Equipment 20%
  • Safety 15%
Level II
Water Quality Test Structure
  • Water Quality Field Techniques 50%
  • Water Quality Data Review and Validation 15%
  • Field Measurement Equipment 25%
  • Safety (HAZWOPER focused) 10%
  • Surface Water Techniques - 50%
    1. Advanced Measurement of Streamflow
      1. Types of measurement devices and their application
      2. Price meter
      3. Pygmy meter
      4. Doppler meter
      5. Weir and flume measurements
      6. Volumetric measurement
      7. Dye injection techniques
      8. Other techniques
        - i. Flood measurement techniques and rules
        - ii. Low-flow measurement techniques and rules
        - iii. Very-slow flow measurement with weighted floats and rods
        - iv. Measurement under ice
  • Stage Data Collection
    1. Interrogating /servicing data logger
    2. Downloading data from logger
    3. Measurement of stage
    4. Devices for transmission of data
    5. Overall gage maintenance
    6. Checking data transmissions from field and office
    7. Proper logging configuration to collect and transmit data
    8. Obtaining peak-stage information
  • Data Analysis and Review
    1. Measurement errors
    2. Rating curve development
      1. Shifts
      2. Backwater
    3. Analysis of station record
    4. Correlation of data
  • Gage Construction and Operation
    1. Choosing the location of a stream gage
    2. Choosing the type of stage sensing instruments
    3. Determining the need for a velocity sensor
    4. Use of solar panels
    5. Locating a satellite antenna
  • Specialized Techniques Not Related to In-stream Flow - 20%
    1. Use of Climatologic equipment
      1. Tipping-bucket and volumetric rain gages
      2. Anemometers, solar radiation, relative humidity, temperature
    2. Measurement of evaporation and transpiration
    3. Measurement of water temperature
    4. Use of piezometers in groundwater flow
    5. Snow hydrology equipment
      1. snow pillow and snow depth measurement
      2. snow moisture measurement
    6. Soil moisture lysimeter measurement
  • Electronics/Field Repair - 10%
    1. AC/DC circuits
    2. Ground Fault circuits
    3. Satellite and Radio telemetry
    4. Cellular phones
    5. Other questions related to the Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility basic electronics course
  • Safety - 20%
    1. Proper floatation equipment
    2. Waders and wading belts
    3. Electronic equipment around water
    4. Traffic control
    5. Bridge measurements
    6. Wading measurements
    7. Cableway measurements
    8. Boat Safety
    9. Hot and Cold weather survival
    10. First Aid equipment needed
  • Ground Water Field Techniques - 50%
    1. Protocols
      1. Water level measurement
      2. Data collection and processing
      3. Sensor accuracy
      4. Site identification
      5. Field computers-laptop, PDA
      6. Well drilling, installation and development
      7. Surveying-latitude, longitude, elevation, datum, coordinate systems
    2. Instruments
      1. Electric tapes, steel tapes, casing indicators, interface probes
      2. Data recorders
      3. Surveying-GPS, total station, etc.
      4. Geophysical logging equipment-caliper, temperature, down hole cameras, etc.
      5. Instrument record keeping and field notes
      6. Trouble shooting and calibration
      7. Piezometers
      8. Pumps-well development, sampling
    3. Sensors
      1. Water level
        1. Continuous-transducer, float, encoder
        2. Manual-electric tape, steel tape, etc.
      2. Cleaning and decontamination
      3. Calibration
      4. Range
      5. Installation
        1. Domestic and monitoring wells
        2. Power systems
        3. Safety procedures for sensor installation
        4. Equipment shelters
  • Ground Water Data Review - 15%
    1. Field notes
      1. Data entry
      2. Calibration records
      3. Water level calculation review
      4. Units of measurement
    2. Data corrections
    3. Datum shifts
    4. Data bases
    5. Comparison of continuous data with instantaneous measurements
    6. Data archiving
  • Ground Water Measurement Equipment - 20%
    1. Analog vs. Digital
    2. Continuous monitor theory, uses, calibration, and record keeping
    3. Electronic equipment care and shelters
    4. Programming
      1. Units conversion (PSI to feet H2O)
  • Safety - 15%
    1. Traffic Control Plans
    2. Drill rigs
    3. Vehicle
      1. Operation
      2. Proper storage of equipment
      3. Safety cages and other devices
      4. Tools and roadside safety equipment
    4. First Aid
      1. Open wounds
      2. CPR
      3. Bites and stings
      4. First Aid kits
      5. Shock
      6. Heat exhaustion
      7. Cold weather exposure
    5. HAZWOPER Certification Questions
    6. Weather hazards
    7. Wildlife hazards
  • Water Quality Field Techniques - 50%
    1. Protocols
      1. Concept of Representative Sampling
      2. Bacteria collection and Processing
      3. Alkalinity Processing
      4. Sample Preservation
      5. Representative Sampling -Equal Discharge Increment and Equal Width Increment
      6. Sediment and bed material
      7. Pesticide and other organics
      8. Carbon and chlorophyll
      9. NPDES Federal storm water
      10. USGS Parts Per Billion
    2. Instrument Calibration
      1. pH, specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, temperature, turbidity--procedure
      2. Frequency of calibration
      3. Instrument Record keeping and Field Notes
      4. Trouble shooting calibration problems
    3. Samplers
      1. Types of surface water samplers
        1. P61, D95, D96, DH81, BM54, D74, Frame Sampler, Van Dorn, weighted bottle, etc
        2. Calibration
        3. Sampler specific uses-pesticide and other organics, sediment, inorganic, storm water, lake or pond
      2. Sampler prep and cleaning
        1. Organic Sampling
        2. Inorganic Sampling
        3. Microbiological Sampling
      3. Sampler Deployment
        1. Bridge and Boat Cranes
        2. Reels, cables, and maintenance
        3. Power systems
        4. Safety procedures for sampler deployment
      4. Ground Water Sampling
        1. Pumps, bailers, and dedicated samplers
        2. Procedures for representative sampling
        3. Sampling potentially hazardous GW
        4. Waste considerations
      5. Limnology
        1. Data sounded operation and maintenance
        2. Bathymetric survey equipment operation (sounder, GPS, DCP)
        3. Phyto- and zooplankton sampling and analysis
        4. Macrophyte identification
        5. Lake Dynamics
  • Water Quality Data Review and Validation - 15%
    1. Field notes
      1. Data Entry
      2. Calibration records
      3. Discharge measurement review
      4. Units of measurement
    2. Cation-Anion Balance
    3. Chain-of-custody
    4. Comparison with QW Standards
      1. State vs. Federal Standards
      2. CWA 303(d) stream reaches
  • Field Measurement Equipment - 25%
    1. Analog vs. Digital
    2. Ion specific electrodes
    3. Continuous monitor theory, uses, calibration, and record keeping
    4. Specific ion or compound testing
      1. Gas Chromatograph
      2. HACH kits
      3. Immunoassay
      4. Electronic equipment care in the field
  • Safety (HAZWOPER focused) - 10%
    1. Traffic Control Plans
    2. Boat Operators Safety
      1. Operation
      2. Equipment Storage
      3. Maintenance
    3. Vehicle
      1. Operation
      2. Proper storage of equipment
      3. Safety cages and other devices
      4. Tools and roadside safety equipment
    4. First Aid
      1. Open wounds
      2. CPR
      3. Bites and stings
      4. First Aid kits
      5. Shock
      6. Heat Exhaustion
      7. Cold Weather exposure
    5. River and Dam Safety
      1. Wading below dams
      2. When to wade
      3. Debris flow considerations
    6. HAZWOPER Certification Questions

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Level III Certification: Discipline Specific

Level III Surface Water Level III Ground Water Level III Water Quality

Requirements: This level requires at a minimum 12 years practical experience under the supervision of a professional hydrologist or senior level hydrologic technician and a minimum of 24 continuing education credits hours in surface water hydrology, field techniques, and advanced monitoring equipment.

To achieve the Level III certification, an applicant must pass a 100-question multiple-choice test that includes the specialty areas in the following outline.

Requirements: This level requires at a minimum 12 years practical experience under the supervision of a professional hydrologist or senior level hydrologic technician and a minimum of 24 continuing education credits hours in ground water science and field techniques.

To achieve the Level III certification, an applicant must pass a 100-question multiple-choice test that includes the specialty areas in the following outline.

Requirements: This level requires at a minimum 12 years practical experience under the supervision of a professional hydrologist or senior level hydrologic technician and a minimum of 24 continuing education credits hours in the field of water quality to include sedimentation, chemistry, database management and biology.

To achieve the Level III certification, an applicant must pass a 100-question multiple-choice test that includes the specialty areas in the following outline.

Level III
Surface Water Test Structure
  • Advanced surface water techniques 60%
  • Specialized techniques not related to in-stream flow 10%
  • Electronic/Field Repair 10%
  • Safety 15%
  • Public Relations 5%
Level III
Ground Water Test Structure
  • Advanced ground water concepts 60%
  • Resource knowledge 15%
  • Network design and decision-making 5%
  • Safety 15%
  • Public relations 5%
Level III
Water Quality Test Structure
  • Water quality concepts 60%
  • Resource knowledge 15%
  • Network design and decision-making 10%
  • Public Relations 5%
  • Safety 10%
  • Advanced Surface Water Techniques - 60%
    1. Advanced Measurement of Streamflow and Theory
      1. Collection of velocity and discharge in complex situations (i.e. regulated flow)
      2. Definitions and terms
      3. Artificial stream channel controls
    2. Complex hydraulic measurements and computations
      1. Weirs
      2. Contracted openings
      3. Step-backwater
    3. Open-Channel Hydraulics (basic principles)
      1. Identifying backwater situations
      2. Slope-area measurements
      3. Choosing a site
      4. Locating high-water marks
      5. Manning's roughness coefficient
      6. Using culvert control as a measurement
      7. Sand and gravel channel dynamics
    4. Gage Construction and Operation
      1. Cableway design and construction
      2. Alternatives to cableways
      3. Gaging station location reconnaissance and determination
    5. Data Analysis and Review
      1. Complex ratings
        1. Stage/fall ratings
        2. Velocity index ratings (i.e. ADVM's. etc)
        3. Ratings in tidal conditions
        4. Ratings for hydraulic structures (i.e. navigation locks, Tainter gates)
      2. Statistical methods of estimating discharge
      3. Review of station record
  • Specialized Techniques not related to in-stream flow - 10%
    1. Limnology
      1. Bathymetric data collection and analysis
      2. Sonar, GPS, and other limnology physical measurement equipment
    2. Turbidity
      1. Instrumentation
      2. Sample collection
    3. Use of Climatologic equipment
      1. Tipping-bucket and volumetric rain gages
      2. Anemometers, solar radiation, relative humidity, temperature
    4. Measurement of evaporation and transpiration
    5. Measurement of water temperature
    6. Use of piezometers in groundwater flow
    7. Snow hydrology equipment
      1. Snow pillow and snow depth measurement
      2. Snow moisture measurement
      3. Soil moisture lysimeter measurement
  • Electronics/Field Repair - 10%
    This category will focus on instructing subordinate employees on troubleshooting faulty instrumentation in the field.
    1. Electrical hazards (GFI circuits)
    2. Calibration of electromagnetic current meters
    3. Repair to water level measuring devices
    4. Battery testing and replacement
    5. What should be fixed in the field and what should not
    6. Computer hardware and software as it relates to data collection and instrument calibration
    7. Satellite antennas
    8. Solar panels
    9. Other power sources
  • Safety - 15%
    1. Facilitating safety meetings
      1. Topic development
      2. Communicating safety
      3. Record keeping and Workman Compensation
    2. Identifying unsafe conditions
      1. Vehicles
      2. Boats
      3. Airplanes
      4. Helicopters
      5. Bridges and dams
      6. Ice
      7. Cold and hot weather
      8. Equipment inspection
    3. Developing Traffic Control Plans (OSHA available)
      1. Sign placement
      2. Traffic considerations
      3. Cones and markers
      4. Right of way and rules of road
      5. Communication
    4. First Aid-Advanced
  • Public Relations - 5%
    1. Presentations
    2. Public speaking
    3. Interviews
  • Ground Water Concepts - 60%
    1. Hydrology
      1. Hydrologic Cycle
      2. Aquifer properties-porosity, hydraulic conductivity, etc.
      3. Potentiometric surface maps
      4. Ground water/surface water interactions
    2. Geology
      1. Geologic formations
      2. Confined and unconfined aquifers
      3. Well logs
      4. Geophysical logs
    3. Field Program Operation and Maintenance
      1. Vehicles
      2. Sensors, pumps, note sheets
      3. Scheduling field duties and personnel
      4. Site selection
      5. Well completion and development
      6. Record keeping and review
      7. Data preparation and analysis
      8. Quality assurance of data
      9. Equipment inventory
      10. Aquifer tests and slug tests
  • Resource Knowledge - 15%
    1. Federal agency technical publications
      1. Protocols and methods
    2. State agency technical publications
      1. Statutory regulations
      2. Geology and natural resource agency methods
  • Decision making and Leadership - 10%
    1. Network design
      1. Selecting monitoring sites
      2. Routine and synoptic sites
    2. Training subordinate employees
  • Safety - 10%
    1. Facilitating safety meetings
      1. Topic development
      2. Communicating safety
      3. Record keeping and Workman Compensation
    2. Identifying unsafe conditions (Job Hazard Analysis)
      1. Vehicles
      2. Boats
      3. Airplanes
      4. Helicopters
      5. Ice
      6. Cold and hot weather
      7. Equipment inspection
      8. Electrical hazards
    3. Developing Traffic Control Plans (OSHA available)
      1. Sign placement
      2. Traffic considerations
      3. Cones and markers
      4. Right of way and rules of road
      5. Communication
    4. First Aid
      1. Open wounds
      2. CPR
      3. Bites and stings
      4. First Aid kits
      5. Shock
      6. Heat Exhaustion
      7. Cold weather exposure
  • Public Relations - 5%
    1. Presentations
    2. Public speaking
    3. Interviews
  • Water Quality Concepts - 60%
    1. Chemistry
      1. Rock-Water interaction
      2. Solubility
      3. Cations and Anions
      4. Organic compounds
      5. Isotope hydrology
      6. Redox potential and equilibrium
      7. Analysis considerations
      8. Preservatives
      9. Hydrologic cycle
      10. Soil Water Chemistry
    2. Biology
      1. Indicator bacteria
      2. Macro invertebrates
      3. Tissue sampling
      4. Bio samplers
      5. Quality assurance
      6. Reporting and publication
    3. Field Program Operation and Maintenance
      1. Vehicles
      2. Filters, pumps, tubing, note sheets
      3. Scheduling field duties
      4. Record keeping and review
    4. Limnology
      1. Bathymetric data analysis (spatial-GIS)
      2. Sampling system design
      3. Data presentation
      4. Trophic status
    5. Reservoirs versus natural lakes
  • Resource Knowledge - 15%
    1. Federal agency technical publications
      1. USGS methods
      2. USEPA methods
      3. Other published methods
    2. State agency technical publications
      1. Statutory regulations
      2. Geology and natural resource agency methods
  • Network Design and Decision making - 10%
    1. Network design
      1. Selecting continuous monitoring sites
      2. Storm water, routine, synoptic
    2. Training subordinate employees
  • Safety - 10%
    1. Facilitating safety meetings
      1. Topic development
      2. Communicating safety
      3. Record keeping and Workman Compensation
    2. Identifying unsafe conditions
      1. Vehicles
      2. Boats
      3. Airplanes
      4. Helicopters
      5. Bridges and dams
      6. Ice
      7. Cold and hot weather
      8. Equipment inspection
    3. Developing Traffic Control Plans (OSHA available)
      1. Sign placement
      2. Traffic considerations
      3. Cones and markers
      4. Right of way and rules of road
      5. Communication
    4. First Aid-Advanced

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