we wrote about the innovative stormwater fee adopted by Kitchener, Ontario, following English and American precedents. Instead of funding storm
water management through fees for municipal water, which
penalizes heavy water users such as laundries, these
municipalities fund the cost of managing stormwater through
taxes on those who create storm water management problems by
having large impervious surfaces, such as flat (non-green)
roofs and parking lots. You pave, you pay.
Not only are stormwater fees a fairer way of charging for
stormwater management, they also create an important financial
incentive for property owners and tenants to reduce the impervious
surfaces on their land. This has major environmental
For example, Kitchener and next-door Waterloo increased the
effectiveness of their program with a Stormwater Utility and Credit
Program in January 2013. The credit program offers
local property owners financial incentives for reducing the
amount of stormwater runoff and pollutants that enter the municipal
stormwater-management system from their property. The
program offers incentives – including lower monthly
stormwater management fees – to all ratepayers who
demonstrate best practices in managing stormwater runoff. The
stormwater credits can offset up to 45% of the stormwater
portion of each property's utility bill.
Mississauga, the sprawling suburb just west of Toronto, will
have its own stormwater charge effective January 1,
Why stormwater fees?
There are numerous environmental advantages to storm water
charges, and to the incentive they provide to reduce impervious
surfaces in urban areas. The fast, polluted runoff from large
paved areas not only costs municipalities of fortune to manage, it
also pollutes surface water and is a major cause for closing
public beaches. Large impervious areas also create urban heat
islands in summer, exacerbating the effects of climate change, and
create heat stress both for wildlife and for humans, especially the
Designated storm water charges are also more likely to provide
adequate funding for wet weather management, because the funds come
directly from the storm water charge, and need not be drawn from
general revenues or compete with the cost of drinking water supply
or of sanitary sewage treatment.
Staff at the City of Toronto told me that they are well aware of
these multiple advantages, but that there has been no political
will to adopt stormwater fees based on impervious areas here. But
if Mississauga can do it, why can't Toronto?
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