In the previous post, an overview of Civica’s Stormwater System Sustainability webinar was provided. Part 1 identified and explained the key challenges facing stormwater management systems. Part 2 will take a closer look at the costs and creative funding strategies for sustainable stormwater management programs.
Performance and Cost – Sewer Systems
It is important to note the direct connection between performance and cost in planning for stormwater programs, particularly when determining the cost criteria. There will be added cost pressures as changing climate conditions may further stress existing drainage systems, accelerating failures and infrastructure damage, and drive the need for reconstruction and repair to restore performance.
Municipalities should also consider the cost-benefit of increased at-source control investment through LID and private-side systems.
Other less obvious performance and cost considerations can include:
- Catch basin cleaning and the impact of salt/sand use on roads in winter
- Sediment and debris accumulation in piping and in-line storage areas
- Remediation of failing pipe sections
- Identifying flow capacity constraints requiring expansion/improvement through storm sewer capacity analysis and/or sewer flow monitoring
Each of these approaches leads to a more efficient use of funds and increased performance, and creating comprehensive programs around these and other tools further gives clarity on the true funding needs. This in turn makes it easier to justify expected costs when requesting stormwater management funding.
Stormwater Pond Performance and Cost – End-of-Pipe Controls
Similar challenges and opportunities exist for end-of-pipe controls including stormwater ponds. Some of the main cost drivers are:
- Stormwater pond maintenance and vegetation control
- Sediment monitoring and pond capacity and performance testing
- Inlet and outlet structures remediation
- Sediment removal and facility rehabilitation
All of these must be planned for and funded for the long-term sustainability of stormwater management ponds.
Issues that may arise include community pushback due to the natural landscape changes that result from rehabilitation and cleaning processes. While some overgrowth can be allowed to encourage naturalization, it should not contribute to the dysfunction of the system.
Regulatory Changes – Introducing the CLI-ECA Program
The Consolidated Linear Infrastructure Environmental Compliance Approval (CLI-ECA) is a new regulatory process introduced by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP). It is intended to streamline the approval process, cutting down on the high volumes, redundancies, and inconsistencies associated with previous processes.
Under the new regulations, all municipalities are required to submit an application for approval, with subsequent requirements for operations manual creation, stormwater performance monitoring plans, and performance reporting and response planning.
A key outcome is linking stormwater system performance and maintenance needs to documented capital and operating funds to demonstrate the financial sustainability of the system.
Municipal Cost Considerations for Stormwater Management
What costs are typically involved in a stormwater management program?
- Ongoing collection system cleaning, inspections, maintenance, and remediation
- Capital improvements required to meet service-level targets
- Replacement of aged or undersized system components
- Investment to increase resilience and climate change effects
- Special feature and LID maintenance needs
- Storm pond cleanout programs
- Administrative, engineering, development review, and revenue management programs
What Is the Cost of Stormwater Management?
The costs of stormwater management are not always easily identifiable in municipal budgets, as they are either too small to separate out or are delivered in conjunction with other programs such as roads or capital projects.
Civica has created a database of defined stormwater programs to assess the cost components identified for funding and how these funds are then separated and collected from general tax revenue.
A survey of existing programs based on 2023 budget information has found that:
- Average cost per household is $125.00 per year ($40.00 to $220.00 range)
- Average program revenue is $414,000 per 10,000 population based on relatively mature asset management plans
- Program revenue ranges from $130,000 to $730,000 per 10,000 population
Stormwater Management Funding Strategies
Once the costs have been identified for the launch of a sustainable program, the next step is to communicate the funding needs. One of the best practices is to create a 10-year capital plan, recognizing the need for a long-term strategy in implementing new charges and revenue fees and program developments.
Specific strategies can include:
- Creating separate revenue and reserve accounts
- Sending reserve where significant shortfall exists
- Rate growth analysis with various approaches
- The impact of inflation and population growth
- The rolling 10-year planning horizon
- The entry-point, considering funding needs, community, and peer program price points
Typical Stormwater Management Program Considerations
Below are the programs common to most municipal stormwater management systems:
- Asset management planning
- Operation and maintenance planning
- Sewer use by-law enforcement
- Monitoring and performance reporting
- Public engagement and education
- Long-term planning and capital program for renewal and growth
- Reserve fund creation
- Emergency response and community protection
Sustainability and Affordability
Every community and council has to consider the cost and benefit of stormwater management, climate change, community vulnerability, and infrastructure needs as it makes these hard decisions on what is needed when, and for how much. Although industry trends are emerging, no two programs are alike, and no two systems are the same.
The next step forward begins the journey of finding the balance of sustainability and affordability with the environment, community, and risk in mind.
The Low-Hanging Fruit
What are the easiest actions to take to achieve success in developing a sustainable stormwater program? A good place to start is by:
- Understanding the new cost pressures and incremental program cost opportunities
- Educating, engaging, and informing the community through web content and outreach
- Listening to community concerns that can drive change
- Conducting desktop assessments to start the discussion early
- Establishing a reserve program for stormwater
How to Plan Your Next Step in Stormwater Management
Take the following actions as a next step toward improved program sustainability:
- Initiate a stormwater risk profile report
- Assess current and future funding needs and envelope sensitivity
- Compare to industry program rates and costs
- Assess community readiness
- Develop a rate program with community engagement
- Plan a stormwater rate transition path
Why Choose Civica?
Civica is a leader in municipal stormwater management solutions. Civica provides free consultations to prospective clients to understand the baseline conditions of their stormwater programs and assist with the next phase of planning. For more information on how to secure funding for stormwater programs, please contact Civica today.
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