Waterloo’s Stormwater Utility Fee and Credit Program

Poly Modak and Todd Chapman, Water Services, City of Waterloo


A number of years ago, neighbouring cities, Waterloo and Kitchener, undertook a Stormwater Management Program and Funding Review Study to determine what level of services and programs are required, sustainable, legally defendable, financially viable, optimal, and socially acceptable. As a result of this study, early in 2011, the costs associated with stormwater management were transferred from property taxes to a user-fee-based utility model with a corresponding reduction in property taxes. Under the new utility-based model, a user fee is estimated (from land-use classification and property size) according to the runoff contribution from each property’s impervious area.

To offset the utility fee and to offer incentives to reduce the quantity of runoff entering the stormwater system, the city implemented a stormwater utility credit program at the start of 2013. The program’s main objective is to control runoff at the sources. The city encourages residents to implement low impact development such as rain gardens, green roofs, bio-retention, permeable pavements, trees, and infiltration galleries, which can reduce the volume of runoff and pollutant loadings discharged into the stormwater system and ultimately streams and waterways. One credit program was set up for residential properties, another for non-residential and multi-residential properties, both offering up to a 45% discount of the new fee. Residential discounts of the stormwater fee are based on the potential volume of runoff captured and diverted from the municipal stormwater system using city-approved best management practices. For instance, 200 litres of runoff that is captured at the source would receive the minimum credit (9%). For a capture of 3,201 litres, a property owner could receive upwards of 45% credit on their utility fee.

For non-residential and multi-residential properties, the discounts are determined by the percentage of the impervious areas that are controlled by stormwater management techniques. The details of a property’s stormwater management controls are typically provided in the site’s stormwater management report. The credit is awarded based on quantity control (up to a 25% credit) and quality control (up to a 15% credit). A 5% educational credit is granted if applicants inform their employees/tenants in the areas of flood prevention and pollution reduction, such as by disseminating stormwater and water-quality-specific literature obtained from the city, provincial/federal environmental agencies, or from any other reputable educational resource center.

Approximately 835 residential credit applications were received in 2013, the first full year of the program. As the non-residential/multi-residential uptake of the program has been lower than expected, the city will focus its outreach activities in 2014 toward this sector.

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