What Are Your Community's Goals for Managing Stormwater?

When evaluating whether a stormwater utility is appropriate for a community, the first step is to develop stormwater-related goals by  considering what new services or capital projects are needed, and how they can be funded by a stormwater utility. Most importantly, avoid the common mistake of leaping directly into the fee discussion and instead start by evaluating your needs. It is important not to put the cart before the horse.

To determine the desired level of service, research is required to confirm the current stormwater related spending and the benefits it provides. Since stormwater costs are typically spread across a locality’s operating and capital budgets, this may require some legwork, but it is a task that internal staff should be able to accomplish. The next set of questions could be:

  • How might the level of service be increased to address key issues (e.g., chronic flooding or water quality improvements) and what are the costs and benefits of doing that? 
  • What is the relationship between a higher fee and a higher level of service?
  • Regulations define the minimum level of effort, but do we have higher goals?

A community may choose from a range of service options. At one extreme, a minimalist approach addresses only critical capital projects and maintenance is performed in response to a problem or complaints. At the high end, a prioritized ranking of capital projects is aggressively funded and a preventive maintenance program is employed. There are different service levels in between.  

The bottom line is fairly simple. Residents must understand and embrace the community’s goals, and must want the services that a stormwater utility would pay for, before engaging in a fee-related discussion.

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