Funding Before the Flood: A Stormwater Utility Can Help You Proactively Manage Your Storm System
United States in a Stormwater Funding Crisis
According to Steve Allbee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, our nation is underfunding necessary stormwater, wastewater and water infrastructure improvements by at least $540 billion. Considering that most cities typically maintain only water and wastewater utility funding sources, this nationwide funding deficit is particularly alarming for those of us in stormwater management.
New Requirements Result in Growing Costs
With Phase II MS4 stormwater quality requirements officially in place, many cities are now faced with the challenge of paying for a classic unfunded federal mandate on top of their general stormwater maintenance costs. In recent years, stormwater utilities have become many cities’ preferred approach to funding management of their storm systems, especially in Texas. Instead of funding service in a reactionary manner, a stormwater utility provides cities with a stable and predictable revenue stream to provide planned storm system management.
Texas Legislature Provides Assistance
To assist cities with their stormwater funding efforts, in 1987 Texas established a clear law enabling them to develop stormwater utility fees, which can be charged only to developed properties at a fee rate based on each property’s use of the storm system. Impervious area, land use and property size are common factors evaluated in determining fees for individual properties. Many cities with stormwater utilities are now also considering credits for developments with onsite storm system improvements, such as detention ponds, water quality ponds and pervious pavement. Fee credits, if properly set up, can become an incentive to encourage better site design practices.