Growing Need for Stormwater Utilities in Massachusetts

Title: Growing Need for Stormwater Utilities in MA

Written By: Natalie M. Pommersheim | Project Manager

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Stormwater Struggle

The need to create an Enterprise Fund or Stormwater Utility for communities to fund stormwater improvements is increasingly apparent. With the recently updated state and federal requirements, adding more complexity and prescriptive goals than years prior, all municipalities need to be able to rely on a stable source of revenue to meet the growing demands of the MS4 program, plan for stormwater capital projects to improve existing drainage systems, reduce flooding impacts, and improve water quality in their communities.

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Local Impact

With another fiscal year ending, we are seeing MA communities scrambling to secure funding to achieve what is required by their NPDES Small MS4 Permits. The MS4 Permit includes a variety of requirements for each individual Municipality to complete annually, including but not limited to:

  • Maintaining public education and outreach programs though websites and social media,
  • Mapping, sampling, and maintaining their aging drainage infrastructure,
  • Completing catchment investigations and updating outfall catchment delineations,
  • Managing construction and post construction practices,
  • Promoting the use of Green Infrastructure (GI) and reducing impervious surfaces,
  • Installing constructed stormwater BMPs, and
  • Managing internal good housekeeping practices.

Funding annual permit requirements can cost over $100,000 per year. Many communities find it difficult to obtain that level of funding and are therefore having trouble keeping up with the program or are still catching up on overdue deliverables from years prior. In order to handle the load of the MS4 program plus their internal department costs for labor, equipment, sweepers, catch basin cleanings, capital projects, etc., communities need funding!

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Finding Funds

There are many different stormwater utility fee structures that can be implemented.  Depending on the size of the municipality, establishing a stormwater fee of just $25 quarterly per parcel could generate over $300,000 annually.  Some communities that have existing Stormwater Utility Structures are able to generate well over $500,000 annually. These funds can be used to create enterprise funds to effectively plan and complete more comprehensive programs and improvements such as developing an Asset Management program, constructing stormwater Best Management Practices, , and improving existing drainage systems. These strategies can improve aging infrastructure, lessen flood risks, provide protection from climate change impacts, and protect local waterways – all immense benefits to ensure the health, comfort, and safety of our communities at an annual price-point less than the cost of most monthly cell phone bills.

Imagine planning improvements and repairs to existing drainage systems before they fail. Starting a program to promote the installation of constructed stormwater BMPs to improve your water quality and flood risks. Developing a comprehensive asset management program, and going beyond the annual MS4 requirements minutia. There are many potential scenarios and/or rate structures that could be developed and implemented to allow for MA municipalities to start the long overdue funding of this vital, and often neglected utility. With proactive solutions and support, Massachusetts can be at the forefront of successfully managing stormwater and implement forward thinking strategies, solutions, and interventions.