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photo-trench with rusty water pipesFor the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

What is WIPA?

WIPA stands for the Water Infrastructure Protection Act (Act).   In 2015, the New Jersey Legislature enacted WIPA, which allows most municipalities to sell or long-term-lease their water systems without the need for approval through a public referendum if certain emergent conditions exist.  

What is a water system?

Many municipalities in the State own water treatment plants and pipes that provide drinking water to homes and businesses in their town.   Many municipalities also own and operate a wastewater collection and treatment system that collects sewage and wastewater from homes and businesses for treatment.    Under WIPA, a system includes the treatment plants, pumps, pipes, buildings and associated components for drinking water systems and/or wastewater systems.

How is it that my municipality is allowed to sell our public water system?

Municipalities are authorized to sell or lease their drinking water or wastewater systems upon approval of a ballot question in a municipal general election (public referendum).  In 2015, the New Jersey Legislature provided an alternative to public referendum by enacting WIPA.  WIPA identifies five (5) emergent conditions that qualify a municipality to sell or long-term lease their systems.  

What is an Emergent Condition?

WIPA identifies five conditions:

What is DEP’s role associated with WIPA?

DEP’s role in the WIPA process is limited.  Under WIPA, the municipality must satisfy local notice and action requirements, including preparation of an analysis by an independent financial advisor, in order to seek DEP’s review of the municipal determination that one or more emergent conditions exist.   DEP is responsible for reviewing and either approving or rejecting the municipality’s determination.  DEP has developed a guidance document that explains what the emergent conditions mean and how a municipality can demonstrate the existence of an emergent condition. A municipality must demonstrate to DEP’s satisfaction that at least one emergent condition exists to proceed with the process.

What happens if DEP approves the municipal determination that an emergent condition exists?

Immediately following DEP’s approval of the emergent condition determination, the municipality must publish notice of the DEP’s approval.  A public petition may be filed within 45 days of the publication of DEP’s approval and, if filed in accordance with the provisions of WIPA (sufficient number of signatures), may result in a required public referendum of the resolution authorizing the lease or sale of the water system.  If a public petition is not filed in accordance with WIPA, the municipality may proceed with the advertisement, selection of buyer, and negotiations of sale (approved by two-thirds of the municipal board).  The municipal resolution must include a summary of how the chosen buyer’s proposal is most advantageous to the public.  The proposed contract must be approved by the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and the municipal use of the sale proceeds must be approved by the Division of Local Government Services at the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). 

Where can I find more information about WIPA?

More detailed information can be found at:

For any questions relating to the review of the emergent condition certification, please contact:

Please contact your municipality should you have any questions not related to the emergent condition certification review.

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Last Updated: January 29, 2021