After years of chronic underfunding of stormwater infrastructure, many Canadian cities are looking to a new model of charging dedicated lot-level stormwater management fees.
This approach, often known as the stormwater utility model, has multiple advantages: reliable revenues, fairness, and the opportunity to incent measures that reduce runoff through onsite infiltration, harvesting, and reuse.
Join us for a webinar on 28 October featuring representatives from three Canadian municipalities (Victoria, Waterloo and Halifax) that are implementing stormwater user-fee systems.
The user-fee approach involves an explicit charge for each property, rather than paying for stormwater management out of general property taxes, or a surcharge tied to water consumption.
The lot-level fee can be geared to the area of impervious surface, and therefore the relative volume of stormwater that is generated. This is much fairer than the alternative because the charge is related to the actual costs of managing stormwater from the site.
It can also provide owners with an incentive for taking action to reduce run-off by managing rain where it falls. Charges can be reduced where green infrastructure measures are implemented, or cash credits can be provided.
Fees can also fund green infrastructure on public property, including parks, public buildings and road rights of way. Some cities provide grants for the construction of green infrastructure on private property.
Stormwater user fees are being brought in to hundreds of cities across the U.S., and cities in Canada are now following suit. Lot-level charges are sometime opposed as a “rain tax”. In fact, they are based on user-pay principles and are more equitable. They encourage more efficient use of expensive infrastructure and help prevent damage from overloaded systems. They provide predictable revenues for essential infrastructure investments that are often neglected.
By learning from the successes and challenges of other municipalities, cities considering implementation can improve their outcomes. Successful strategies have included collaboration with environmental and community groups, who can provide a positive voice for the fee, direct outreach to the most affected property owners (businesses with large parking lots, like grocery stores, car dealerships etc), and well-publicized, easy to access incentives that promote property-level stormwater management.
If you’re interested in this topic, you can submit questions to our virtual panel by 21 October by contacting Clara Blakelock.