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May 15, 2015
How to reduce your stormwater utility fees
By Emily Remmel, JD, Legal Editor

Did you know that in some locations properties with rooftops and impervious pavement are subject to municipal stormwater fees? If you are in an area with a municipal stormwater utility, your monthly bill likely includes a stormwater fee. The purpose of stormwater fees reflect a municipality’s cost to operate and maintain operation stormwater infrastructure and employ personnel. Fees are determined by the total square footage of your property that is impervious (e.g. roof, driveway, and parking lot).

Did you know that you may be able to reduce this monthly stormwater fee? In some areas, residents and commercial property owners may qualify for a stormwater credit if green infrastructure projects are implemented to reduce the quantity of stormwater running off the property and/or to improve the quality of the stormwater reaching surface waters.

Rainfall events flush pollutants resting on impervious pavement (e.g. oil, fertilizer, trash) down stormwater drains and into local streams or reservoirs without treatment. Therefore, stormwater runoff is a common factor in the degradation of water quality.

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What exactly is a stormwater credit?

Stormwater credits are based on reducing the stormwater rate or volume from a property to the stormwater system. Credits are often awarded by installing and continuing use of an approved structural device or participating in activities that reduce or alleviate the municipalities cost of providing a stormwater management program.  

Projects to reduce and/or improve stormwater runoff

There are various residential and commercial projects that can reduce stormwater quantity and improve water quality. These examples are common projects that may receive stormwater credits.

Residential Property Commercial Property

Install rain gardens

Construct retention/detention ponds

Install vegetated filter strips

Remove/reduce impervious surfaces

Install rain barrels/cisterns

Install a green roof

Install pervious pavement

Install runoff flow control measures

Detach downspouts

Comply with all NPDES permit requirements

What are the costs verses benefits?

Depending on the location, size of the property, and area of impervious surface, monthly stormwater bills can be undoubtedly expensive. Stormwater fees can start few dollars each month for small residential and commercial properties and increase as property size increases.

Stormwater credits have a dual benefit: reducing your monthly utilities cost and minimizing stormwater pollution. Stormwater credits vary depending on the type of project and location, but some projects make it possible to receive up to a 100 percent stormwater credit. Stormwater credits directly translate into cost savings.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also recognizes that the importance of integrating green infrastructure concepts. For example, low impact development is a concept that preserves or recreates the natural landscape by minimizing imperviousness, promoting sustainable practices as well as providing ecological and hydrologic benefits.

Getting started

  • Contact the utility. Get in touch with the local utility or the state environmental agency to verify stormwater credits are offered in your location.
  • Determine which projects are applicable. For example, residential properties have different mitigation credits than larger non-residential commercial properties.
  • Don’t begin the project before applying. It is important to fill out and submit the application to the local utility or agency before installing the stormwater project. Once you receive approval, you may start the project.
  • Expect a site visit. The utility allowing the credit may request photo documentation for smaller projects such as rain barrels, but will most likely require a site visit for larger projects to ensure the stormwater project is actually installed and functioning properly.
  • Receive credit. Monthly utility bills will reflect proportionately reduced stormwater fees depending on awarded credits.
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