Stormwater Utility

Overview


Colonial Heights City Council adopted Ordinance No. 10-26, §245-20, adding stormwater utility fees to Chapter 245, Stormwater Management, of the Colonial Heights City Code on October 12, 2010. The monthly utility fee for a residential property is the ERU rate of $2 per month for one ERU (Equivalent Residential Unit). The monthly utility fee for a nonresidential property is the ERU rate of $2 per month for one ERU, multiplied by the numerical factor obtained by dividing the total impervious area of the nonresidential property by one ERU (2,656 square feet).

Using an ERU at $2.00 per month, the rates in the table below are typical for the types of properties represented:

Property Type Billing Unit(s) Typical Charge
Residential ERU*
(proportional to dwelling units)
$24\year**
Non-Residential
(using a parcel with 2 acres impervious area)+
Multiple of ERU based on impervious area $787\year

* Equivalent Residential Unit = 2,656 square feet of impervious surface
** Assumes a single family residential property
+ 2 acres impervious = 87,120.3 square feet

Approach


A stormwater utility (SWU) is a funding approach based on a public utility-like process that is designed to fund a community’s stormwater management requirements and activities. Paying for stormwater expenses must be divided in a fair manner. Stormwater utility fees are generally set by the amount of imperviousness on each parcel. The amount of imperviousness (pavement, roof-top, sidewalks) on each property increases runoff volume and peak storm flows in the community’s surrounding water courses - as compared to natural previous areas (pre-development). The SWU approach was developed with the understanding that everyone is a part of the runoff problem…as each rainfall drop-by-drop collects “downstream”. If you discharge into the public drainage system you should support its maintenance and design. Each resident pays an equal share proportional to the amount of runoff they burden the system with. Properties with more imperviousness should pay more than a single-family property owner for the subsequently increased stormwater system burden. If no runoff occurs on a parcel, no fee should be charged. Stormwater fees are not charged by the value of the property under the stormwater utility.

Necessity


Stormwater management is necessary to protect public property, mitigate storm event damage, and to meet federal and state mandates. Managing stormwater involves directing and “controlling” runoff via the design, installation and maintenance of infrastructure, as well as administration of stormwater control programs. Stormwater runoff is the portion of rain and melting snow that does not soak into the ground. It runs off impervious surfaces like rooftops, driveways, parking lots and roads that do not allow the water to soak through to the ground below. Well over 400 cities and communities nationwide have developed and implemented stormwater utility fees.

Benefits


A dedicated funding source like a stormwater utility provides the City of Colonial Heights with many benefits:
  • Safeguards public health and safety
  • Maintains current level of customer service to address backlog of customer complaints
  • Maintains property values
  • Mitigates flooding problems

Utility Development


In 2008, per requirements from federal and state conservation agencies, Colonial Heights began a comprehensive study to investigate the feasibility of implementing a stormwater utility fee. As a component of the study, a citizen committee consisting of local business leaders, non-profit representatives and active citizens was convened. Considerations in the Stormwater Utility’s development included:
  1. Current and projected expenditures for operations and maintenance;
  2. Identification of problem areas using hydrologic and hydraulic models;
  3. Current and projected water quality regulations and parameters, such as mandates on phosphorus, nitrogen, fecal coliform and sediment levels; and
  4. Inventory of the City’s current stormwater infrastructure.
For detailed information on Colonial Heights’ Stormwater Utility fee, please refer to these Frequently Asked Questions.