Adopting a Stormwater Fee? Our New Report Can Help With That

A new NRDC issue brief will help municipalities set up successful and equitable stormwater fee programs. Making It Rain: Effective Stormwater Fees Can Create Jobs, Build Infrastructure, and Drive Investment in Local Communities, released today, is a how-to guide that offers best practices and policy recommendations for funding local runoff pollution and flood reduction efforts.

More and more communities are reducing stormwater pollution

Surfaces that don’t absorb water, such as asphalt, concrete, and brick, are called impervious surfaces. When rain runs off these surfaces, it can collect a wide range of toxic pollutants, which are then dumped—usually untreated—into local waterways.

Our communities are taking action to solve this problem. Across the country, a growing number of municipalities are working to reduce the amount of polluted stormwater that flows into their rivers, streams, and lakes, often using multi-beneficial green infrastructure practices.

In many areas, regulatory requirements drive municipalities to reduce runoff pollution. For example, waterway clean-up plans often identify stormwater reduction targets that are incorporated into local governments’ Clean Water Act permits. Municipalities also strive to reduce runoff for non-regulatory reasons, like reducing urban flooding.

However, it can be challenging for localities to pay for the infrastructure improvements needed to reduce polluted runoff. Many municipalities don’t know which financing option makes the most sense for them, or how best to allocate the costs among residents. That’s where our new issue brief comes in.

Our new report will help decisionmakers set up stormwater fee programs

The issue brief released today aims to demystify the stormwater fee, one of the most common and potentially equitable means of funding stormwater-related improvements. A stormwater fee is a user fee charged to property owners within the municipality’s service area to finance the cost of local stormwater programs.

The paper presents a suite of strategic recommendations for local governments that are in the process of crafting and adopting stormwater fees. These recommendations can turn stormwater management obligations into an opportunity to build infrastructure, create jobs, and invest in improvements to communities.

The issue brief also references real-world examples from around the country, with a special focus on the Chesapeake Bay watershed—a region where stormwater fee programs are relatively common.

Read the issue brief to find out…

  • Why a stormwater fee is preferable to other financing options, like general funds or bond proceeds.
  • Why basing the fee on a property’s impervious area can save money for residential customers and create a positive message about why the fee is necessary and fair.
  • How to ensure the fee is set at the right level to meet your community’s needs.
  • How to keep the fee affordable for all users—and why creating blanket exemptions for certain types of properties is counterproductive in the long run.
  • How to leverage the fee with grants and credits to encourage stormwater retrofits on private property.

The full issue brief can be found online here.

About the Authors

Becky Hammer

Deputy Director, Federal Water Policy; Senior Attorney, Nature Program

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