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What is a Stormwater Fee?

What is Stormwater Infrastructure?

Stormwater management is a growing financial burden for many communities in Pennsylvania. To manage all the stormwater they generate, municipalities build and maintain stormwater management systems consisting of ditches, catch basins, inlets, underground pipes, and other interconnected structures designed to move stormwater out of inhabited areas. These water transportation networks are technically called municipal separate storm sewer systems, or MS4s, because they are "separate" from the sanitary sewer systems municipalities also build and maintain.

The design, construction and maintenance of aging infrastructure all cost money, and the financial burden is increasing. As land is developed and urbanized, stormwater that once sank into the ground naturally now flows over paved, impervious areas. Stronger and more frequent rains require a more robust infrastructure. Additionally, more urban municipalities are now required to obtain stormwater permits that increase costs.

What is a Stormwater Fee?

A stormwater fee is an assessment charged to property owners within a municipality’s service area to finance the costs of local stormwater programs. It is similar to other utility fees like trash and water and provides a stable source of revenue for stormwater infrastructure. Fees are dedicated funds – all monies raised must be spent on stormwater management activities. All property that produces stormwater, even tax-exempt public schools and nonprofits, must pay stormwater fees.  According to Penn State Extension Service, new fees are preferable to raising taxes because fee revenue is easier to:

  1. Protect from competing community needs,
  2. Apply to all properties that generate stormwater runoff, and
  3. Calculate fairly.

How is the fee calculated?

While municipalities calculate stormwater fees differently, they typically use a formula corresponding to the area of impervious cover on a property (pavement, parking lots, structures, etc.). State law prohibits municipalities from charging more than their annual cost of managing stormwater.

Can the fee be reduced?

Most, but not all, communities that charge stormwater fees allow reductions for green infrastructure that reduces stormwater such as streamside buffers, rain gardens, and pervious pavement.


Penn State Extension:

City of Harrisburg:

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  1. Toni Pogue

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