Putting Water into a Jar

We put water into jars, but we do it very, very well.
OES staff member labeling groundwater sample

Sampling water is a simple sounding job that can be deceptively complicated. When things are going well, everything’s fine. Things are as they should be. But when things go wrong, it can be frustrating trying to explain how you messed up putting water into a jar. Because at its most basic essence, that’s what my job is. I put water in jars. Which sounds like any warm body or well behaved monkey could do. But since I do it, I’m here to make the case that there are actually a surprising number of necessary traits of character to make a quality filler of jars. And I’m going to do it as a listicle!

  1. Technical Prowess- One does not simply put water into the jar. There are readings to be taken using thousands of dollars worth of water quality devices. And how do you get the water into those devices? With thousands of dollars worth of pumps of course. All of which need to be known how to properly operate, how to maintain, and, when they inevitably break, how to troubleshoot in a field over a lackluster cell phone connection to some guys in Kansas. A quality tech makes the effort to acquire the knowledge necessary to keep the job moving forward, and to get it back on track when it falters.
  2. Perseverance – Not everything goes as it’s supposed to. We arrive on site to sample a well and there’s a truck parked over it, a locked gate that was supposed to be left open, or nine foot tall vegetation blocking the path and obscuring the next location. Well under, over, or through, we’re getting the sample. A quality tech exhausts all options to make it happen, and fosters a refusal to be bested by circumstance. Which leads me to the next trait….
  3. Ingenuity- “It cannot be done,” I say. “It has to be done,” you say. To which I reply “…..Well I guess I’ll go figure it out then.”  A tech of substance is able to adapt to the situation and improvise a solution to overcome hardships in the field. Something necessary is missing or broken? Fabricate a replacement or use lateral thinking to work it out of the picture entirely. When life hands you a lemon, throw a lemon curveball back at its head. Life won’t be expecting that. A quality tech uses a combination of know-how and cleverness to succeed in situations that otherwise seem hopeless.
  4. Consistency- Repeatable, high-caliber results, every time. A quality tech is meticulous and diligent in their sampling and record keeping, which isn’t easy when it’s 98° or 10° outside. Nonetheless, they deliver dependable, unfailing results.
  5. Honesty- Potentially above all else, a quality tech is trustworthy. A great deal of faith is placed in us, and a quality tech respects that trust. In instances where mistakes are made, they’re owned up to, corrected, and learned from.

Despite being a simple sounding task, there’s actually a great deal of nuance to sampling properly. And we don’t just sample properly, we sample exceptionally. And that elite level of performance requires an individual of great skill, strong will, cleverness, reliability, and truthfulness. So to my fellow techs I say take pride in your work. We put water into jars, but we do it very, very well.

Chris Cooper
Environmental Specialist
Oklahoma Environmental Services, Inc