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Communications Resources for Funding Stormwater Management

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Funding stormwater management and updating stormwater infrastructure are important parts of ensuring communities have clean water and waterways; healthy, safe neighborhoods; local jobs; flood and climate resilience; and economic growth. Inadequate infrastructure and more extreme precipitation caused by climate change intensifies the impacts of poor stormwater management: street and basement flooding, polluted waterways and impaired waterfront recreation, affecting public health, private property and the local economy.

Stormwater management utilizes gray infrastructure (like storm drains and pipes), green infrastructure (like rain gardens and cisterns), and best management practices (like regular street sweeping) to capture rainwater or allow it to drain more quickly. Building, maintaining and expanding stormwater infrastructure requires a financial investment but allows communities to avoid the costly impacts of flooding, property damage, and pollution.

In New Jersey, most stormwater infrastructure is funded by property tax proceeds that are directed to the local public works department. In areas with combined sewer systems, sewer utility revenues are also used. But in almost 1,500 municipalities in 40 states and Canadian provinces, local governments collect funds based on properties’ runoff generation. These revenues are then dedicated to stormwater infrastructure improvements. The programs often offer credits to property owners who manage stormwater on-site, thus creating an incentive for green infrastructure projects (which also have other community benefits).

The successful implementation of stormwater-management funding mechanisms offers lessons for communities that need to resolve flooding, pollution and other stormwater impacts. The principal lesson is the importance of engaging with the public early and often, and communicating clearly. This section of the website offers a host of communications resources for stormwater-management funding initiatives, including case studies, results of public opinion polls, guidance documents, free online courses, templates, customizable handouts, illustrative photos and other resources.

If you have any questions on how to navigate the resources below, or can suggest others to add, please contact Ed DiFiglia.

Communications Resources for Funding Stormwater Management

Background and Survey Reports

  • When a Band-aid’s Not Enough: Implementing Stormwater Utilities in the Great Lakes Basin – 2016
    • This report contains community outreach tools, sample utility ordinance language and guidance for building public support from American Rivers.
  • Stormwater Utility Survey – Western Kentucky University – 2014
    • This report surveyed basic information, such as fees, population and year created, from 1,491 U.S. stormwater utilities (SWUs) and 19 Canadian SWUs. It identifies a lack of clear statutory authority as a major obstacle for SWU formation. In addition, it recommends that states like Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York should create clear statutory authority while Hurricane Sandy is fresh in everyone’s minds.
  • Stormwater Utility Survey – Black & Veatch – 2014
    • This survey of municipalities with established stormwater user charge programs identified three key priorities for the stormwater-management industry: the availability of adequate funding, enhanced public support for stormwater management, and management of expanding regulatory requirements. The report also identifies regulatory compliance; flood control; and safety and reliability as top drivers for investment.
  • Maryland Voter Poll on Stormwater Remediation Fee – OpinionWorks, LLC – 2015
    • This statewide poll identifies an overwhelming lack of public understanding of the stormwater remediation fee in Maryland. The poll finds that inaccurate understandings of the fee have greatly elevated opposition. But when facts are presented, a plurality of 46% support the fee, and opposition drops to only about 35% of voters.

Guidance Documents

  • Getting to Green: Paying for Green Infrastructure – EPA – 2014
    • This report provides an overview of various funding sources that can be used to support stormwater management programs or to finance individual projects. Each type of funding source is illustrated by several municipal programs and a list of additional resources for each is included.
  • Stormwater Fee Literature Review – Water Words That Work LLC – Pennsylvania
    • The literature review covers extensive research on how the public and businesses react to the introduction of a stormwater utility fee. The report examines successful arguments and common questions and concerns of residents, businesses and local governments. The report makes recommendations and highlights best practices for how to communicate a stormwater fee to the public.
    • “Selling” Stormwater Authorities: Tips for Gaining Community Support – Powerpoint – Water Words That Work LLC – 2014
      • This presentation, given to local officials, reviews the research by Water Words That Work LLC. It makes five recommendations on how to communicate a stormwater fee to a community.
  • Stormwater Fees: An Equitable Path to a Sustainable Wastewater System – SPUR – 2012
    • This report becomes relevant in the “Implementation Considerations” chapter. An economic analysis of the effect of stormwater fees on property owners is an important step that allows utilities and residents to understand the impact of the fees. Analysis from the Philadelphia Water Department suggested that such an analysis would have allowed them to be better prepared for resident complaints.
  • Stormwater Program Funding: Forming a Successful Stormwater Utility – Forester Media – 2015
    • This white paper is a step-by-step review of how to set up a stormwater fee. It discusses multiple sources of funding, overcoming legal challenges, lessons from successful utilities and setting an appropriate rate structure. The paper also highlights best practices on public outreach.
  • Local Government Stormwater Financing Manual: A Process for Program Reform – EFC – 2014
    • This manual is written for local government leaders, and provides background information about a paradigm shift under way in stormwater management that consists of increased evidence of the impacts and opportunities that stormwater creates for communities as well as increased regulations and citizen interest. It also provides a process model for being effective leaders in creating policies and programs to finance that shift.


Online Courses

    • The Building Blocks of an Effective Stormwater Management Program – 2015
      • This free 1.5-hour online course is designed to provide skills to establish effective stormwater management programs as well as innovative ideas to identify untapped opportunities. The course covers communicating the basics and provides examples of successful programs.

Case Studies and Examples

  • Businesses Fear Huge Bills From Stormwater Fee – CBS Baltimore – 2013
    • This news article articulate the concerns of the business community about stormwater fees, and highlights the arguments against implementation of such a fee.
  • Financial Tools to Support Adaptation: Stormwater Charges and Fees – CCACoP Webinar – Mississauga – 2016
    • This webinar considers marketing a stormwater fee in Mississauga, Canada. It offers recommendations that can be generalized. The webinar suggests explaining the water system, the need to maintain the system and the stormwater fee calculation as a fair way to address water issues. The webinar uses images to familiarize the viewer with the water system, the problem and the solutions. Refer to the resources file for the downloadable webinar.
  • Financing Stormwater Retrofits in Philadelphia and Beyond – NRDC – 2012
    • This report explores how cities can attract billions of dollars in private investment in stormwater retrofits. It explains how Philadelphia’s stormwater billing structure laid the groundwork for innovative financing mechanisms that can underwrite the capital costs of green infrastructure retrofits, and includes recommendations for local and state officials to stimulate private investment.
  • Getting past the ‘rain tax’ rhetoric – Baltimore Sun – 2013
    • This opinion piece explains why financing stormwater is important and why cities and utilities have new obligations to address stormwater issues.
  • Municipal Online Stormwater Training Center – Case Studies – MOST – 2015
    • This website is a compilation of case studies of stormwater management program implementation efforts in 19 communities in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Most of the case studies serve as updates on stormwater management efforts and are between two and three pages in length.
  • Stormwater Utility Update Presentation – City of Victoria, British Columbia – 2013
    • This presentation frames the stormwater issue, and explains why a stormwater fee is needed and what it will cost residents. It also reviews the successful green-infrastructure and community engagement practices the city employed to help the community address its stormwater issue.
  • Urban Water: Strategies That Work – The Urban Institute – 2013
    • This report reviews a series of stormwater workshops for community members in New Orleans that covered stormwater management practices and funding solutions. The last workshop, building off the others, included a session with elected official and stakeholders. The report covers lessons learned and highlights the value of these types of workshops as a community outreach tool.

Websites Dedicated to Stormwater Funding

  • Environmental Protection Agency Green Infrastructure Funding Page
    • This website offers information regarding federal funding sources. It also lists comprehensive guides, case studies, and training materials developed by government and nonprofit organizations to help explain the available funding options for local stormwater programs.
  • MOST Center
    • This is a free, virtual center that help communities implement effective stormwater management programs and overcome accessibility obstacles, budget restraints, and lack of expertise. The website provides interactive lessons, videos, graphics, knowledge checks, and other tools to deliver training content in an engaging, user-friendly format.
  • Value of Water Coalition
    • This organization provides detailed toolkits, reports and videos on how to communicate to and educate local decision-makers, stakeholders, and customers about the essential value of water and the need to invest in it.

Materials for Distribution to the Public


Recent Tools & Resouces



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