In June 2010 City of Kitchener Council approved the implementation of a “tiered flat fee” stormwater rate structure based upon a property’s impervious area ― a first for Canada. This case study will review the key drivers and constraints in the City of Kitchener’s stormwater rate initiative and ensures that dedicated funding is available to sustain the City’s stormwater management program.
The City of Kitchener (pop. 215,000) is located in southwestern Ontario and has stormwater infrastructure assets valued at $300M covering a land mass of about 137 square kilometres. Recent stormwater management system audits, subwatershed plans and environmental study reports have recommended implementation of infrastructure retrofits, preventive maintenance and monitoring programs. These needs presented significant challenges to the City in its attempt to deliver a sustainable level of stormwater service.
Kitchener established a rational nexus between the user fee and the cost of the service being provided ─ in that the more impervious area an individual property owner has, the greater the amount of runoff and pollutant loading from the property and, consequently, the greater the demand on the City’s stormwater management system, either for flood control or water quality treatment purposes.
Additionally, the rate structure enabled a significant shift in overall stormwater program costs from residential users to the non-residential sector, where both taxable non-residential and tax-exempt non-residential properties would be paying their fair share of stormwater services, due to the amount of stormwater run-off generated from their properties.
City Council also endorsed the principle that a stormwater rate credit policy be established. Property owners can qualify for stormwater rate credits when they can demonstrate that their existing or proposed stormwater facilities or applied best management practices provide the municipality with a cost savings that the municipality otherwise would incur as part of their efforts to manage stormwater.
The City of Kitchener has implemented a stormwater rate and credit policy that ensures sustainable and dedicated funding for stormwater infrastructure. This case study presents a Canadian perspective which will provide fresh insights for other communities that are considering a rate-based approach to funding stormwater program needs.