Cleaning and Greening with Meaning

The Stormwater Workgroup of the Choose Clean Water Coalition has done a lot of work over the past few years on “stormwater utilities” – or “stormwater fees”. Fees are a mechanism used by local governments to help cover the costs of fixing polluted runoff problems in urban and/or suburban areas.

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program

A couple of years ago, the workgroup put together a Stormwater Utility Clearinghouse – effectively a spreadsheet listing every local government in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that had a stormwater fee, and included specific data about the fees; the fee structure, including exemptions; and contact information. The primary intent was to have a central document that other local governments could use to get ideas about efforts in their region to reduce stormwater runoff and meet clean water goals.

David Morgan, the water policy associate for the Coalition in 2016 and 2017, spent time refining the Clearinghouse and also sharing information with others across the country, including the Western Kentucky University which compiles a similar list stormwater utilities nationwide.

In order to improve information sharing with local government officials who might be interested in establishing a stormwater fee, a few members of the workgroup, Becky Hammer and Alisa Valderrama with Natural Resources Defense Council and David Morgan, sought to compile a helpful list of policy recommendations. This report, with a heavy emphasis on using green infrastructure to reduce stormwater pollution, was completed in June.  The “Paying for Stormwater Management in Chesapeake Bay Communities: Policy Recommendations” is now available for anyone to use.

The concise 15 page report provides a lot of basic information for anyone, or any community, interested in stormwater utilities. The report also contains a number of references to other sources for more detailed information in a number of areas. If you know of someone interested in learning about utilities, or if you want to spur your local government to consider something like this, feel free to share this report with them.

This report provides guidance for how to set a fee, how much it should be, who should pay it, who should be exempt or receive a credit, and other critical information.

Peter Marx is the federal affairs contractor with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.