The following excerpts are taken from WaterCanada’s Mar/Apr issue article, ‘USER FEES THAT PLEASE’, by Nick Gollan – A new user pay and credit system helps Kitchener fund its municipal stormwater program.
The City of Kitchener received the Peter J. Marshall Municipal Innovation Award from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Best Practices Award from Ontario Good Roads Association in 2011, for the implementation of its stormwater rate model.
Stormwater flows within the Kitchener, Ontario are directed towards the Grand River, with Lake Erie acting as the ultimate receiver. Additionally, about 70 per cent of the drinking water for Kitchener residents comes from groundwater sources, with the balance from the Grand River; therefore, source water protection is critical, not only for the City, but across the watershed. In this respect, Kitchener is representative of many mid-sized Canadian communities. Located in southwestern Ontario, Kitchener has stormwater management (SWM) infrastructure assets valued at $300 million, covering a land mass of about 137 square kilometres. Property taxes are still the primary source of SWM program funding for Ontario municipalities. However, many municipalities recognize that some form of user pay approach needs to be developed in order to fairly and equitably distribute the increasing costs associated with this municipal service.
Implementing user pay: The City of Kitchener, along with the adjacent City of Waterloo, collaboratively completed the SWM Program and Funding Review Study. AECOM was the lead consultant who undertook the feasibility study which included an extensive public consultation and review over the course of five years. Both councils agreed to the study recommendations, and both adopted the overarching principles of a user pay approach. The implementation of a rate structure that rationally assigns costs of service to users is an innovative and important step forward and demonstrates the feasibility of an equitable and defendable stormwater rate structure… Under the utility structure, the impervious area is used as a surrogate to determine the amount of stormwater loading discharged to the municipal system and a credit policy provides financial incentives for property owners to implement and maintain private SWM best management practices (BMPs) to reduce stormwater loading.
A tiered flat fee stormwater rate model has been in place since January 1, 2011. A rate tier is assessed to each land parcel based on their impervious area. The charge appears on the monthly municipal utility bill and is itemized as a SWM service. Moving to this type of funding model has allowed Kitchener to make significant improvements to the municipal stormwater infrastructure such as the Victoria Park Lake Improvements project completed in 2012. Other municipalities that fund stormwater programs in a similar fashion include the City of Waterloo, Ontario, the City of Edmonton, Alberta, and the City of Portland, Oregon, amongst hundreds of others in the United States.
Rewarding property owners for BMPs: A key issue that arose during public debates related to the provision of credits for the adoption of BMPs by private property owners. The public wanted to be acknowledged and compensated for implementing BMPs such as vegetated swales, infiltration trenches, pervious pavement, extended detention stormwater basins, constructed wetlands, and other low impact development (LID) techniques. The objective of the city’s stormwater credit policy is to encourage the implementation of measures on private property in order to reduce total runoff volume and pollutant loading discharged to the city’s stormwater management system. Property owners qualify for stormwater rate credits when they demonstrate that their existing or proposed stormwater facilities or applied best management practices are functioning as approved. This policy enables the city to reward private property owners who are good stewards, in the implementation of SWM best management practices while supporting the municipality’s SWM and sub-watershed policies…
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