Stormwater Utility Fee FAQ

These Frequently Asked Questions address common questions related to the Stormwater Utility Fee.

Page updated on Dec 26, 2019 at 9:11 AM

FAQs 

1. What is a Stormwater Utility Fee?

A Stormwater Utility Fee is a charge based on the generation of stormwater that pays for the management of that stormwater by the City. It is just like fees for services charged by other public utilities.

2. Why did the City introduce a new fee?

The City adopted the Stormwater Utility Fee on May 4, 2017 with the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget to provide a dedicated source to fund the City’s Stormwater Management Program and was motivated by the need to fund State and Federal stormwater mandates. The fee will fund stormwater management more equitably than through real estate taxes.

3. Is this related to the combined sewer overflow mitigation?

No. The State and Federal mandates for reducing combined sewer overflows are different than the those for reducing stormwater pollution to the  Chesapeake Bay, which motivated the adoption of the Stormwater Utility Fee.

4. How is it different from the water bills I receive?

Most Alexandrians receive up to three water-related bills: 1) one from Virginia American Water, which provides clean water to your home or business, 2) one from AlexRenew, which cleans your dirty water after it is flushed to the sanitary sewer, and 3) one from the City of Alexandria which pays for the City’s stormwater management program. Stormwater Utility Fees are included as a separate line item on the real estate tax bill from the City of Alexandria that is received directly or through their mortgage company. 

5. How is it different from a tax?

The Stormwater Utility Fee is not a tax. The amount of revenue collected must be related to the cost of services it funds and must be used for stormwater management. Revenue from property taxes, for example, is tied to the assessed value of the property and funds general government services.

All properties, including tax-exempt properties must pay. Homeowner or condo associations are not charged a fee, instead individual residential homeowners are charged a flat fee. Some properties receive a full waiver by law, including property owned or operated by the City, public roads, cemeteries; and property owned by George Washington Memorial Parkway, and Northern Virginia Community College, because they hold their own permits to discharge stormwater from a municipal separate storm sewer system from these properties.

6. How is it more equitable than a tax?

Beginning January 1, 2018, the fee replaced the half-cent set-aside in the tax rate, as well as additional general fund contributions for stormwater management, equaling about two cents per $100 of taxed properties’ assessed value. We estimate that residential property owners have about 37% of the City’s impervious area but were paying about 58% of stormwater management services through their tax burden. Instead, the fee is based on a property’s impervious area contribution to stormwater and requires all properties with impervious area to pay, including tax-exempt properties. The Stormwater Utility Fee distribution closely matches the impervious area distribution in the City.

7. What are impervious areas?

Impervious areas are surfaces composed of any material that significantly impedes or prevents natural infiltration of water into the soil. Impervious surfaces include, but are not limited to: roofs, buildings, streets, parking areas, driveways, and any concrete, asphalt, or compacted gravel surface. The impervious area used for the Stormwater Utility Fee is different than the floor area inside a house. We measure the outside impervious area, like what a bird would see from above.

8. Is the City’s mapping of my property’s impervious area correct?

The impervious area is mapped from aerial photos with the actual measurement done via computer imaging, which produces a high degree of accuracy.

Most residential properties pay a flat fee regardless of the mapped impervious area. To request a map for a large single family home (over 2,800 square feet of impervious area), e-mail  stormwater@alexandriava.gov.

Non-residential properties may view their impervious area on the Stormwater Utility Fee Map Viewer by turning on the layer. 

9. What is a billing unit?

The billing unit is an Equivalent Residential Unit or ERU and is defined as 2,062 square feet of impervious area, which is typical for a detached single family home in the City of Alexandria. Properties within the residential tiered rate structure are charged a flat-fee that is based on a comparison of the impervious area typical of each tier against a typical single-family residential unit. For non-residential properties, the annual stormwater utility fee is calculated by multiplying the approved rate by the number of billing units.

10. How is the rate determined?

The rate is reviewed annually and set by the city council to be effective July 1 each year.

11. How is my residential tier determined?

The tier for residential properties is based on the primary property class designation by the office of real estate assessments. The Condo tier includes garden-style and hi-rise condos. The townhouse tier includes townhouse-style condos, row townhouses, and semi-detached houses. Typical and large single family tiers include detached houses.

The designation between typical and large single family homes is based on impervious area. The impervious area is different than the floor area inside a house.

12. Are there any other municipalities that charge a Stormwater Utility Fee?

Yes. Fee based programs are promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and authorized by the Commonwealth of Virginia as a way of addressing shortfalls in water resources.  Fee based programs have been used since 1974, and there are currently over 1,500 fee based programs in the country and 25 fee based programs in Virginia.  In the surrounding area, D.C., Prince George's County, the City of Falls Church, and others all have programs similar to the one that was adopted.  

13. Am I eligible to pick up litter for Stormwater Utility Fee Credit?

Non-residential properties may register to participate in the SWU Adopt-A-Waterway, Adopt-A-Block, and/or Adopt-A-Drain programs. Individual homeowners will not receive credit off their Stormwater Utility Fee for participation. Instead, credit will be earned by the non-residential property that was associated with the group upon registration.

Residential property owners may apply for other credits outlined in the credit manual. Cleanup activities for the SWU programs receive a financial benefit that volunteers do not. Volunteers participating in the City’s existing Adopt-A-Block Litter Program administered by the Street Cleaning Division are not eligible for credit, but are recognized with a sign designating their adoption. For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit alexandriava.gov/Volunteer.


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