Stormwater utility fees and household affordability of urban water services


Abstract Stormwater utility fees provide dedicated revenues for managing stormwater. In setting fees, household-level affordability should be considered. Existing research does not address methods to evaluate the affordability of stormwater utility fees, especially alongside other household water costs. This paper aims to fill that gap. We present a scenario-based approach to evaluate household affordability of stormwater utility fees in a municipality, which considers other essential household water service charges. We estimate the relative contribution of stormwater utility fees to total household water costs and evaluate affordability across income brackets by integrating data for socioeconomic status, land use, water utility charges, and impervious surface cover. Using data for a case study region, results indicate that stormwater utility fees are small contributors to overall household urban water costs and comprise no more than 2% of the median household income across nearly all income quintiles. For low-income households, stormwater charges only exceed 1% of the household income for the lowest-income brackets (<$20,000) and still represent a small portion of household water costs. The analysis demonstrates a generalizable approach that can be applied everywhere when evaluating a stormwater utility fee as a funding strategy.

Water Policy