Financing Stormwater Programs

As new regulations on stormwater emerge, many communities are concerned about ways to pay for their programs. Most fiscally responsible programs center around the use of stormwater utilities to cover everything from construction to long term education and maintenance. Stormwater utilities are fees billed to consumers much like gas, electric, and water bills, and are designed to cover the cost of maintaining sewer and public storm drain systems. Costs can also cover construction, operation of wastewater plants, street sweeping, public education, watershed planning, and other stormwater management costs. Different communities have different methods for computing the cost of stormwater utilities. For example, the Unified Sewerage Agency (2001), which manages the sewer and stormwater for several counties in Washington, charges each household a flat fee and then an additional amount according to the amount of winter water consumption. According to their calculations, the average household can expect to spend about $24 a month. Other communities maintain a fee structure based on the amount of impervious cover on the site.

Other stormwater financing systems are one-time grants, loans, and fees that can cover the costs of structural stormwater management, sewers, erosion and sediment control in the construction site, and other more immediate environmental impacts that the development is likely to have on the land. Government subsidies, grants and loans and developer impact fees are a few examples. Government sources can be federal, state or local, while developer impact fees are generally straight line item-based cost directly billed to the developer. Impact fees can also be based on the amount of impervious cover on the site. Both government grants and impact fees allow for one-time costs that can be used to supplement stormwater utilities, but are generally not as feasible for longer term maintenance and education costs.

There are numerous resources and references that provide more detailed information on this topic. The following is a basic list of some of the best that we have reviewed.

Resources and References:

Florida Association of Stormwater Utilities. (2001).

An Internet Guide to Financing Stormwater Management. 2001.

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. 2001. How to Create a Stormwater Utility. South Hadley: MA. (Available online at

Lehner, Peter, Aponte Clark, George P., Cameron, Diane M., and Frank, Andrew G.1999. Stormwater Strategies: Community Responses to Runoff Pollution. Natural Resource Defense Council. Washington: DC.

Rates and Billing Information. 2001. United Sewerage Agency.

Stormwater Management Fee. (2001). Department of Public Works. Prince William County: VA.

Walker, Barrett P. 2001. Preparing for the Storm: Preserving Water Resources with Stormwater Utilities. Reason Public Policy Institute. Los Angeles: CA.