What is Stormwater?
Stormwater runoff occurs when rain or melting snow flows across land and impervious surfaces like roofs, driveways, parking lots, streets, and other hard surfaces. Because these impervious surfaces don't allow stormwater to soak into the ground, the runoff can cause flooding. As it flows across the ground, stormwater runoff may pick up pollutants like grease, oil, pet waste, fertilizer, metals, and other pollutants before entering the City's storm drain system. Stormwater is not treated, so the City's storm drains lead directly to local waterways, such as Taylor Run, Four Mile Run, Strawberry Run, Timber Branch, Hooffs Run, Holmes Run, Backlick Run, Cameron Run, and ultimately, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. Unless stormwater is first treated, the pollution picked up by the stormwater runoff enters our streams, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay. Stormwater pollution and flooding harms our environment, pets and wildlife, and can damage property.
Stormwater Management Services Funded by the Fee
The Stormwater Utility Fee was adopted to provide a dedicated funding source for existing stormwater management services and new capital projects to reduce sediment and nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorous) pollution into our local waterways, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay. It is just one part of the City's larger Eco-City Clean Waterways Initiative.
Funds raised by the fee go toward operation and maintenance of public stormwater quality and public drainage infrastructure in the separate storm sewer system, stormwater quality initiatives, compliance with our MS4 stormwater permit, plan review, and our flood management program. Several Stormwater Infrastructure Projects are underway to help the City meet State and Federal MS4 stormwater mandates, while City Drainage and Flooding Projects mitigate drainage issues in problem areas. The City focuses on the use of green infrastructure, other stormwater best management practices (BMPs), and stream channel maintenance and restoration strategies to address stormwater infrastructure concerns.
Stormwater Utility Fees
To view the Stormwater Utility Fee for any property (single family residential or nonresidential): Use the property search or Stormwater Utility Fee Map Viewer and enter the property address. The fee is billed to property owners as a separate line item on their real estate tax bills, half in May and half in October. Properties who do not pay tax receive a bill for just the stormwater utility fee.
The Stormwater Utility Fee is based on a property’s impervious area, or hard surfaces like roofs and driveways that don't let rain runoff soak into the ground. Residential properties are billed a flat fee based on the type of property. The City determined the flat fee structure by analyzing the typical impervious area for each property type compared to a typical single-family home. Based on the current rate, typical single-family homes pay $140 in 2018. Townhouses and condominiums pay less. Detached single family homes with over 2,800 square feet of impervious area pay more. Non-Residential properties are billed a calculated fee based on their actual impervious area. Non-residential properties pay $140 for each 2,062 square feet of impervious area on their properties in 2018. Visit the pages for Residential and Non-Residential property owners to learn more about each fee structure.
All property owners may apply annually to reduce their Stormwater Utility Fees between December 1 and February 15. The City’s credit policy allows property owners to reduce their annual fee by earning “credits” described in the comprehensive Stormwater Utility Credit Manual. The manual includes credits adopted by City Council in October 2017 and October 2018 under both phases of the credit policy development.
Online credit application forms are available during the credit application window on your property’s “Tax & Fee Info” page of the property search site, which is easily accessible via the Stormwater Utility Fee Map Viewer. The City will review the application and approve or deny the requested credits. Approved credits will be applied to the following year’s Stormwater Utility Fees and split between the May and October bills. Fillable PDF Credit Application Forms may also be printed and mailed to the stormwater management division.
You may request an adjustment to the fee if there is an error on your bill. Online appeal forms are available on your property’s “Tax & Fee Info” page of the property search site, which is easily accessible via the Stormwater Utility Fee Map Viewer. You may also complete and submit a paper form. Forms are due in June within 30 days of billing. The online appeal form will only be available during this window.
Pay your stormwater utility fee even if you’ve submitted an appeal, because payments are applied first to fees, then to any prior period outstanding balance. This may cause late payment penalty and interest to the assessed on the current tax and fees, if the total due is not paid by the respective due date of the real estate property tax bill.
Once you’ve submitted an appeal, the City will review and make a determination upon the receipt of a complete application, including any additional information requested by the City. If a petition to adjust your fee is approved, you will receive a revised bill or payment credit.
City staff is conducting public outreach by directly engaging the community about the Stormwater Utility Fee per the adopted Stormwater Public Outreach Framework. Staff has engaged with numerous groups, associations, committees, commissions, land owners, non-profits, and individuals through in-person presentations, social media, and other contemporary public outreach strategies found in the adopted outreach strategy. Residents or property owners interested in having City staff visit their community, business, or non-profit organizations to discuss stormwater management and the Stormwater Utility Fee, or with specific questions, should email email@example.com to schedule a meeting or call 703.746.4357 (HELP) to ask questions.
- September 15, 2016 News Release - Draft Stormwater Utility Framework
- May 4, 2017 News Release - Stormwater Utility Fee Adopted
- October 3, 2017 News Release - Stormwater Utility Fee Open House
- October 19, 2017 News Release - Stormwater Utility Fee to be billed on Real Estate Bill in May 2018
- November 1, 2017 FYI Alexandria eNews - Phase 1 Nonresidential Credit Policy Adopted
- December 7, 2017 News Release - Implementation with New Viewer, Credits Program, and Open House
Stormwater Utility Fee FAQs
These FAQs address common questions related to the Stormwater Utility Fee.
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 Stormwater Utility 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 TMDL pollutant reduction goals. Learn more about the Eco-City Alexandria Clean Waterways initiatives.
4. How is the Stormwater Utility Fee different from a tax?
The Stormwater Utility Fee is not a tax. All properties, including tax-exempt properties must pay the fee based on the amount of impervious area for the property type. 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.
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.
5. How is the fee 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.
6. How do you determine how much stormwater my property generates?
The Stormwater Utility Fee is based on a property’s impervious area. Non-Residential properties are billed a calculated fee based on their actual impervious area. Residential properties are billed a flat-fee based on the type of property by using the typical impervious area for each type compared to a typical single-family home.
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. 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.