What is the Water Quality Accountability Act?
The Water Quality Accountability Act, P.L. 2017, c. 133 (WQAA), enacted on July 21, 2017, established new requirements for purveyors of public water to improve the safety, reliability, and administrative oversight of water infrastructure. The WQAA became effective on October 19, 2017. The full text of the Act, N.J.S.A. 58:31-1 et seq., can be found here.
DEP Issues, “Water Quality Accountability Act Guidance” (5/22/2020)
Who does the Water Quality Accountability Act affect?
The Act applies to public water systems with more than 500 service connections, which is approximately 300 water systems in New Jersey.
What are the new requirements created by the Water Quality Accountability Act?
The Act requires purveyors to create and implement an asset management plan designed to inspect, maintain, repair, and renew its infrastructure consistent with standards established by the American Water Works Association. In addition, the Act also specifies a methodology for routinely testing valves and fire hydrants. Also, the Act supplements the Safe Drinking Water Act (N.J.S.A. 58:12A- 1 et seq.), by requiring the submittal of a mitigation plan by purveyors that exceed a certain number of violations in a within any 12-month period. Purveyors regulated by the Act that have internet connected control systems will also need to create cybersecurity programs and join the NJ Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell.
How will the Water Quality Accountability Act be implemented by the NJDEP?
While the Act establishes the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) as having a central role in its implementation, it also identifies several other agencies (New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs), with essential roles. The NJDEP is committed to the successful implementation of the Water Quality Accountability Act, and is working to identify all options for implementation that will improve the reliability, resiliency, and sustainability of NJ’s water utilities, ultimately improving the protection of public health and the environment. NJDEP continues to coordinate with partner agencies and also initiated the stakeholder process with a meeting held on November 27, 2017, to solicit comments/input.
Valves (Section 3)
Valves Greater than or equal to 12"
|Inspect every 2 years – by 10/19/2019 and every other year thereafter
|All other valves
||Inspect every 4 years – by 10/19/2021 and every four years thereafter
||GPS to the extent possible
|Repair all valves when found to be broken or otherwise not operational
- clearing the area
- cleaning out valve box
- dynamic testing – opening and closing valve according to manufacturer or the number of turns equal to 15% of completely open
Hydrants (Section 3)
All fire hydrants
|Test annually – by 10/19/2018
|Implement a plan for hydrants and dead mains
|GPS all to the extent possible
|Label each with the purveyor's name (eg. Abbreviation or corporate symbol), as well as an identifying number or symbol, with paint, brand, or soft metal plate
Cybersecurity Plans (section 4)
The Water Quality Accountability Act requires that public water systems that have more than 500 service connections and an internet-connected control system to develop a cybersecurity program in accordance with the requirements established by the Board of Public Utilities (Board). The Boards’ Order identifies comprehensive cybersecurity requirements for Board regulated electric, natural gas, and water/wastewater utilities and includes the following:
- Establish a cybersecurity program that defines and implements organization accountabilities and responsibilities for cyber risk management activities and establish policies, plans, processes and procedures for identifying and mitigating cyber risk to critical systems;
- Conduct risk assessments and implement appropriate controls to mitigate identified risks;
- Maintain situational awareness of cyber threats and vulnerabilities;
- Report cyber incidents and suspicious activity to Board Staff via the New Jersey Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC);
- Create and exercise Incident Response and Recovery Plans; and,
- Provide cybersecurity awareness and training programs.
Further, the Board Order requires each utility to appoint an executive to oversee the cybersecurity program.
In addition, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness’s NJCCIC is developing an applicability survey to identify systems with an internet-connected control system, as well as supporting guidance/template to address the requirements of a cybersecurity plan/program. These resources are coming soon.
By February 16, 2018, all applicable purveyors are required to have developed a cybersecurity program in accordance with the Board’s requirements. All applicable purveyors will be notified of the date and process for the future submission of the cybersecurity program.
In addition, 60 days after development of the Cybersecurity Plan (by April 17, 2018, if developed on February 16, 2018), applicable purveyors are required to join the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell to promote awareness of cyber related threats, attacks, resources and tools, and to create a cyber security incident reporting process.
Notice of Violation/Mitigation Plans (section 5)
- A mitigation plan (including a report by a licensed operator (LO) and professional engineer (PE) that includes a technical analysis of how the mitigation plan is intended to prevent the reoccurrence of the notices of violation) must be submitted to DEP:
- By purveyors who have received 3 notices of violation for any reason within a rolling 12-month period
- By purveyors who have received 2 violations related to MCL exceedances within a rolling 12-month period
Certification (section 6)
- The highest ranking official (e.g. executive director, mayor) must certify in writing to the Department, annually, that the water purveyor complies with all Federal and State drinking water regulations and the relevant sections of the WQAA.
The forms/directions for submission are:
- When completing the Certification Form, please feel free to use the comment lines for providing supporting details for both compliance and non-compliance with a requirement(s).
- On compliance with Section 3 of WQAA - Valves are not required to be inspected until 10/19/2019 and 10/19/2021, depending on size.
- On compliance with Section 7 of WQAA – Asset Management Plans are not required to be fully implemented until 4/19/2019.
For BPU regulated purveyors, the certification form may be sent via email to Board.Secretary@bpu.nj.gov or mailed to:
Secretary of the Board
Board of Public Utilities
44 South Clinton Avenue
3rd Floor, Suite 314
Post Office Box 350
Trenton, NJ 08625-0350
Asset Management Plans (section 7)
- By April 19, 2019 – purveyors need to have implemented an Asset Management Plan.
- Though the plan does not need to be submitted, it must be available upon request during inspection by the Department, and certification that the plan has been implemented must be completed on the annual October certification form.
- Minimum requirements of the Plan are:
- A water main renewal program with a 150-year replacement cycle or other appropriate replacement cycle determined by a detailed engineering analysis
- A water supply and treatment program designed to inspect, maintain, repair, renew, and upgrade pumps, sources and treatment facilities
- Asset management plans and system condition reports must be certified by the LO or PE and the person required to sign the annual certification form outlined in section 6 (e.g. executive director, mayor).
- Consistent with AWWA standards
- The Department’s Asset Management Plan Technical Guidance can be found here.
- Annually – each purveyor must dedicate funds to address/remediate the highest priority projects in their plan
- By April 19, 2022 and every 3 years thereafter, each purveyor must submit to the Department and BPU or DCA (whichever is applicable) a report based on the infrastructure improvements taken, and to be taken and the costs of those improvements
Agency partners are working to build a portal available for the electronic submission of this requirement in the future.
Visit the Department’s existing Asset Management Program website for more general information on Asset Management Planning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question - Who does this legislation apply to?
Answer – All public water systems with 500 or more service connections.
VALVE/HYDRANT INSPECTION QUESTIONS
Question – Do I have to submit my inspection/flushing records?
Answer – No, however you are required to maintain these records for at least six years, and they should be made available during inspections conducted by the Department.
Question – Can I use a sticker or ring to label my fire hydrant?
Answer – No, the Act specifically states that paint, brand, or a soft metal plate must be used to label your hydrant.
Question – Do I need to inspect all of the valves in my system, including the treatment system?
Answer – The Department interprets the legislation to include the valves in the distribution system, and not those in the treatment system.
Question – Are there specific standards I need to adhere to when collecting GPS data?
Answer – Yes, all GPS data must be collected in accordance with NJDEP standards. Please see the “NJDEP GPS Data Collection Standards for GIS Data Development.”
Question – What AWWA standards should I be using for my hydrant and valve inspections?
Answer – AWWA manuals M17 (Fire Hydrants: Installation, Field Testing & Maintenance) and M44 (Distribution Valves: Selection, Installation, Field Testing & Maintenance).
Question – What are the submission requirements of the cybersecurity plan?
Answer - In March 2016, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) adopted cybersecurity requirements applicable to their regulated universe (Electric Sector, Natural Gas Sector, and regulated water/wastewater systems.) The requirements established were developed in consultation with experts in utility cybersecurity and involved the NJ Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Cell (branch of NJOHSP), and the FBI. The Executive Order can be found at www.nj.gov/bpu/pdf/boardorders/2016/20160318/3-18-16-6A.pdf. These same requirements are also applicable to systems subject to the Water Quality Accountability Act.
Question – What counts as an “internet-connected control system?"
Answer – The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness is in the process of developing a checklist that will determine applicability. For more information see the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness website.
Question – What is the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell, and how do I join it?
Answer – The New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC) is the State’s one-stop shop for cybersecurity information sharing, threat analysis, and incident reporting. All purveyors under the WQAA (that have internet-connected control systems) must join NJCCIC within 60 days of developing their cybersecurity program. This can be done by accessing their website: www.cyber.nj.gov/, clicking on the “Membership” tab, and filling out the relevant contact information.
ASSET MANAGEMENT QUESTIONS
Question – Is there funding available for developing an Asset Management Plan?
Answer – Yes, through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, up to $100,000 per applicant is available, with principal forgiveness, for systems with less than 10,000 people. Short-term interest free loans are available for larger systems with a capital improvement. Click on the “Funding” tab.
Question – Do I need to submit my Asset Management Plan?
Answer –No, you do not need to submit your Asset Management Plan; however, the Asset Management Plan must be implemented by April 19, 2019, and must be available upon request during inspection by the Department. Also, you must certify that your Asset Management Plan has been implemented on the annual October certification form. In addition, an Asset Management Plan Report will be required to be submitted in April 2022.
Question – What should be included in the content of the triannual Asset Management Report?
Answer – The first report that will be submitted to DEP, BPU, and DCA regarding the status of each purveyor’s Asset Management Plan will not be due until April 19, 2022. A template and guidance will be provided as the Department and agency partners develop specific requirements for this submittal item. Broadly speaking, the report should be submitted at least once every three years. It must include updates about infrastructure improvements that have been made both in the previous three years, and planned improvements in the next three years.
Question – Do all water mains need to be on a 150-year replacement cycle?
Answer – The mains must be replaced on a 150-year replacement cycle, or other appropriate cycle as determined by a detailed engineering analysis.
Question – Do I need to do a water loss audit as part of my Asset Management Plan?
Answer - Yes, a thorough Asset Management Plan should include a water loss audit. Free water loss audit software can be obtained on the American Water Works Association website.
Question – Are there any AWWA manuals that would be useful in developing my Asset Management Plan?
Answer - AWWA manuals M28 (Rehabilitation of Water Mains) and M36 (Water Loss Audits and Loss Control Programs).
The New Jersey Infrastructure Bank (NJIB) has the ability to finance any planning, design, Asset Management or Fiscal Sustainability Plan development or investigative activities as required under the Water Quality Accountability Act, as long as these activities result in a Capital Improvement Project. The Financing is available in the form of a Short Term (3 year) Loan, presently at zero % interest with the expectation to convert this financing into a Long Term (30 Year or useful life) Loan along with the Financing of the Capital Improvement Project through the program. Principal Forgiveness up to $100,000 for systems serving a population 10,000 may also be available. Please contact the NJIB for more information.
Questions about the WQAA can be
addressed to the
or by calling the Division of Water Supply & Geoscience at 609-292-7219
Please direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to include “Water Quality Accountability Act” or “WQAA” in the subject line.