What is stormwater?
Stormwater is the rain or melted snow that cannot be absorbed into the ground to become groundwater. This water flows off of roofs, across fields, forests, streets, parking lots, driveways, and lawns before it flows into streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries. In Tarboro, stormwater runoff is carried to the Tar River through a system of open ditches, piped drainage systems, and creeks.
What is a stormwater utility?
A stormwater utility establishes a dedicated and sustainable funding source that provides for long-term management of stormwater within a municipality or county. The Tarboro stormwater utility will design, construct, maintain, and manage the stormwater structures and water courses in Town to reduce flooding risks and protect surface water quality. As with existing Tarboro utilities like electric and water & sewer, the stormwater utility will be self-sufficient. User fees based on impact on the system will provide a dedicated funding source that is consistent and equitable. Primary duties of the stormwater utility will be:
• Regulatory compliance with NPDES and Tar-Pamlico stormwater rules
• Street sweeping
• Curbside leaf collection
• Cleaning of stormwater catch basins, manholes, pipes, and ditches
• Repair and replacement of existing stormwater facilities
• Flood mitigation projects
• Public information and outreach
Are stormwater utilities common?
Stormwater utilities are very common and becoming more prevalent as stormwater infrastructure continues to age and environmental regulations increase. There are currently more than 1,400 stormwater utilities in the United States. In North Carolina alone there are more than 70 stormwater utilities according to the UNC School of Government. Many of North Carolina’s utilities originated in the early 2000s when National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) standards and individual basin regulations such as the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico Stormwater Rules were adopted. These regulations mandated pollution and nutrient control standards, but provided no funding for implementation.
Why is it necessary?
Prior to the establishment of a stormwater utility, the funding of repair and maintenance of stormwater infrastructure and management activities was accomplished through property tax revenues. Due to the age of existing infrastructure, growth in impervious surfaces, increase in intensity and frequency of major rain events, and increased cost of regulatory compliance, it became unsustainable to continue to fund stormwater management through property taxes. Reasons to move to a utility-based funding mechanism include the following:
Equity: funding will be based on impervious surfaces. This results in large and small developments paying their proportionate share for stormwater management and flood control. Also, due to property tax exemptions, some of the biggest contributors to runoff currently pay little to no property taxes.
Consistency: Fee-based revenue provides a stable source of funding for long-term investments and annual maintenance needs. This reduces costs and ensures problems are addressed in a timely manner.
Reducing Impervious Cover: A stormwater utility incentivizes reducing impervious cover by attaching a fee to the amount developed. This encourages owners to reduce the amount of impervious cover and over time reduces pollution, flooding, and Town costs.