Cities and utilities across the country are progressively adopting or increasing stormwater fees as a means to generate funding for capital projects related to mitigating surface runoff, treating runoff, or separating stormwater drains from the sanitary sewer system. Oftentimes, stormwater fees are assessed based on the area (square feet) of impervious surface and come in a variety of names such as rain tax, drainage fee, stormwater fee, or impervious tax. Regardless of the label, impervious areas create runoff, deplete groundwater recharge, spread pollutants, and have other negative effects on the environment which is why cities require funding to mitigate the impact.
Fees are typically billed on an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) or similar metric. An ERU is the amount of impervious surface area on a typical single-family home and can range considerably by city. For commercial properties, the amount of impervious area is measured and then converted to the corresponding ERU. Washington DC, for example, calculates an ERU to be 1,000 square feet, with the monthly fee for each ERU being $19.52. The fees, however, are charged on a tiered basis, with the highest tier being those buildings over 11,100ft2.
The White House, not including approaches, guard shacks, and other buildings, has 55,275 square feet of impervious surface area. As such, the monthly fee stormwater fee for POTUS would be $263. Luckily for us taxpayers, DC Water – like most cities – offers incentive programs that can reduce the monthly fees by installing green infrastructures such as green roofs, bio-retention ponds, permeable pavement, or rainwater harvesting systems.
From an ESG and investor relations perspective, investing in green infrastructure is an excellent way to increase site sustainability and help protect the communities where you do business. Additionally, in select markets where stormwater fees are higher, there are opportunities where investing in green infrastructure projects can offer attractive paybacks as well. If you have questions about stormwater mitigation fees or best practices, please let us know.