What is the Storm Water Utility Fee?
The San Antonio Storm Water Utility is responsible for drainage services as well as the installation, operation, and maintenance of drainage infrastructure throughout San Antonio. The Storm Water Utility was created by the City Council pursuant to Municipal Drainage Utility Systems Act, found in Chapter 552 of the Texas Local Government Code. The Storm Water Utility is separate from the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) sanitary sewer system, and is operated by the City’s Transportation & Capital Improvements department (TCI).
The fee was created by the City Council 1993 in response to the federal Water Quality Act of 1987 and implementing regulations enacted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1990. All cities with populations over 250,000 were required to develop comprehensive drainage plans, services, and programs to reduce the discharge of point and non-point pollutants into streams and rivers. Cities that fail to comply are subject to potential fines and criminal prosecution of elected officials. The Storm Water Utility plays a critical role in protecting public health and safety in the community by maintaining water quality and reducing flooding events.
how does the storm water utility fund drainage infrastructure and programs?
Drainage infrastructure and services are funded through a combination of general funds, capital bond financing, and storm water utility rates. Through its annual budget process, the San Antonio City Council determines the appropriate expenditures for drainage infrastructure and services for each fiscal year. Major drainage infrastructure projects have been funded through capital bonds with debt expense paid with storm water utility rates.
Drainage needs resulting from new development are addressed through on-site detention, off-site mitigation, or participation in a regional storm water project at the option of the developer in most areas. Participation in a regional storm water project requires the payment of a fee in lieu of (FILO) on-site detention which pays for a portion of these drainage projects. Other drainage needs are addressed through local storm water projects which are financed through general funds and storm water utility rates. Storm water operation services are funded through utility rates exclusively. Under the Municipal Drainage Utility Systems Act, the City Council has the obligation to set storm water utility rates based on the cost of service.
what is the purpose of the storm water utility fee?
In 1993, the San Antonio City Council approved a schedule of storm water rates based on the cost of providing storm water plans, services, and programs. The Storm Water Utility Fee is a rate intended to cover capital and maintenance expenses associated with local drainage projects, and fund operational services related to the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit, which is required by EPA regulations and authorized by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
The fee is assessed on residential and commercial benefited properties and collected on a monthly basis through SAWS bills where it appears as the “Federal Storm Water Fee.” SAWS serves as the City’s billing agent and supports MS4 operations through a contractual agreement. Under the current rate design, originally established in 1993, the Storm Water Utility Fee is assessed based on lot size and land use type of benefited properties.
what is funded through the storm water utility fee?
As the primary revenue source for the City's Storm Water Operating Fund, the Storm Water Utility Fee can only be used to fund those services that directly support MS4 Permit requirements and storm water operations. Examples of services funded by the Storm Water Utility Fee include but are not limited to the following:
- Street Sweeping
- Channel Mowing/Restoration
- Drainage Infrastructure Maintenance
- Natural Creekway Debris Removal
NEW FEE METHODOLOGY
On September 10, 2015 City Council adopted a new billing structure for the storm water utility fee using an impervious cover approach. To review the revised rate structure, please view the ordinance.
WHAT IS THE CITY’S LOW IMPACT DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVE/CREDIT MECHANISM?
A credit is a reduction to the Storm Water Utility Fee that can be pursued by a property owner or occupant who operates and maintains a Best Management Practice (BMP) or Low Impact Development (LID) feature that reduces pollution, helps to control storm water runoff, or both. TCI will recommend to the City Council a Water Quality incentive Program with a maximum credit of 30% from the "Impervious Fee" for Non-Residential Accounts. This program will require an annual maintenance of the BMP and/or LID feature to continue the credit. To find out more about what BMP and/or LID features will qualify for credits, please refer to SARB LID Technical Design Guidance Manual (2019).
WHO HAS TO PAY THE STORM WATER UTILITY FEE?
The storm water utility fee will continue to be assessed to the owner or occupant of the "benefited property" which includes any lot or parcel or real property that has been improved and which contributes runoff into the City's storm water system. By ordinance, there are certain exclusions from benefited property, including:
- Property with a wholly sufficient and privately owned drainage system
- Property held and maintained in its natural state
- A subdivision lot, until a certificate of occupancy has been issued
- Property owned by a state agency or public or private institution of higher education
- City streets and drainage facilities