Your Current Stormwater Management Program and How a Utility Fits

The most successful stormwater utility program implementation generally starts with the development of a comprehensive Stormwater Management Plan (otherwise referred to in literature as a Feasibility Study or a Business Plan). The term “Stormwater Management Plan” can mean a variety of things to different people. However, as it relates to stormwater utility development, a Stormwater Management Plan should include the identification of program goals, a strategy for achieving those goals over a realistic timeframe, identification of stormwater management needs, the type and magnitude of costs required, resource requirements, and timing considerations for implementation.

Most stormwater programs that are not funded by a stable funding source (such as stormwater user fees) lack the organization and definition of a traditional utility program. In such situations, program leadership is often not consolidated, knowledge is siloed, costs are undefined or poorly understood, and needs are undefined. Thus, a primary component of a Stormwater Management Plan must be the identification of the need for improved service and dedicated funding. If local government leaders cannot effectively communicate why a stormwater utility is needed, the effort will be fraught with serious challenges.

A needs and cost of service analysis is the backbone of a Stormwater Management plan. Needs may be defined through review of prior planning efforts, staff knowledge, assessment of customer complaints, information about facility and flooding conditions, and regulatory requirements. Many successful programs will engage the public in the determination of future stormwater program needs or the level of service desired. Others will perform modeling and planning efforts to predict future needs if sufficient program resources are available at this early stage to do so. The bottom line is that the public must ultimately understand the drivers for a funding change, the needs of the program, how those needs will be addressed, and a reasonable estimate of the costs for executing the plan (typically a 5-10 year planning horizon) before they are willing to support a new fee program. Development of a Stormwater Management Plan prior to establishing a stormwater utility can help respond to these challenges.

For more information on building public support, see here.

Read on