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Stormwater fees help improve, protect Ohio’s water

When it rains or when snow melts, there are no boundaries — the water flows wherever it wants. Managing stormwater flooding and drainage discharges can be challenging and expensive for communities. In order to mitigate these problems, some of Ohio’s communities charge residents and businesses a stormwater fee in order to develop management programs, including the creation of stormwater utilities.

These stormwater management programs help municipalities be in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. Stormwater can cause debris, chemicals and soil to enter water bodies, polluting the state’s water. Ohio has at least 109 stormwater utilities and the fees vary widely from community to community, according to a 2019 Western Kentucky University survey. Ohio’s median monthly stormwater fees are $3.50, the lowest of surrounding states.

Many communities determine the fee structure based on the amount of impervious surfaces such as roofs, streets and parking lots. That’s because these surfaces create the most stormwater runoff. In some communities, agricultural properties are categorized as nonresidential, meaning they’re charged based on actual impervious surface area but often can reduce that charge through conservation efforts that reduce the amount of stormwater runoff. Those who are categorized as residential usually are charged a flat rate based on the average impervious surface area for residents.

Recently, Summit County Farm Bureau successfully argued that agricultural properties shouldn’t be charged the same as commercial and industrial sites because farmland can absorb stormwater. As a result, the Summit County Engineer’s Office’s Surface Water Management District switched from charging agricultural properties $4 a month per 3,000 square feet of impervious area to a flat rate of $4 a month, regardless of the amount of impervious area. And if an agricultural property doesn’t have any impervious surfaces, it’s now considered undeveloped and not charged a stormwater fee.

Ohio Farm Bureau membership