Stormwater Protection Program
The Stormwater Protection Program covers all aspects of storm drainage and stormwater management networks in the City that convey or treat this runoff. This program is funded by the Stormwater Utility Fee which is charged to each property that has more than 500 square feet of impervious area.
The two videos below illustrate the challenges of maintaining the City’s storm drainage system, and the need for the Stormwater Utility Fee:
Watch video below to learn about the issues with the required improvements to the Storm Water Management Program starting in 2021.
Watch video below to learn about the recommendations to pay for and implement required improvements to the Storm Water Management Program.
Why is a Stormwater Utility Fee required?
The stormwater utility fee funds the maintenance and repair of the City’s storm drainage system; this is a network of over 100 miles of pipes and arch drains, 2,800 catch basins and drainage inlets, and 800 manholes that collects storm runoff and carries it through the City to several discharge points. The oldest parts of the system are more than 100 years old, and need to be inspected and repaired on a regular basis. The Stormwater Protection Program also funds the City’s street sweeping operations, which collect and remove trash and pollutants before they can enter the storm drainage system. Also, as of May 29, 2020, property owners are no longer responsible for repairing deteriorated curbs and sidewalks along their properties; the City will use some of the stormwater fee revenue to compete these repairs.
In addition, the City also has to comply with its stormwater permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment. That permit, among other things, requires the City to provide water quality treatment for 20% of the impervious area in the City that isn’t already being treated (roughly 300 acres of area). To meet this requirement, the City must retrofit existing stormwater ponds (or construct new facilities) to provide water quality improvements. The estimated cost to meet this requirement is expected to exceed $10 million.
How is the Stormwater Utility Fee calculated?
Since a stormwater utility is a fee for service, all properties are charged regardless of their tax status. The amount of impervious area on each property was measured using high resolution aerial photographs. The City has created a viewer that residents can use to see the impervious area that was captured on each property; users should understand the impervious areas captured from the photographs are approximate, and that the impervious area shading in the viewer may not perfectly align with the aerial photograph. Click the link below to access the viewer:
In Hagerstown, properties are charged in increments of 1,000 square feet of impervious area. These are called “billing units”. Fractions are rounded to the nearest whole number. For example, the property below results in two billing units. The number of billing units is then multiplied by the rate set by the City Council.
Please note that impervious area associated with a public street, alley, or public sidewalks along the street is not counted against a property's total. A property with less than 500 square feet of impervious area results in zero billing units, and is therefore not assessed a fee.
The current annual rate set by the City Council, as of January 1, 2023, is $36/billing unit; the total annual fee is then divided by the number of utility billing cycles assigned to each property (either four for quarterly customers, or twelve for monthly customers).
Can I reduce my Stormwater Utility Bill?
Property owners may be able to reduce their stormwater utility bill by removing unneeded impervious surfaces from their property, by taking credit for existing stormwater treatment facilities that serve the property, or by installing new treatment facilities.
Reducing impervious area may be accomplished by removing unused structures like garages or storage sheds, replacing impervious driveways and parking areas with permeable pavers, or permanently removing pavement or parking pads that aren’t needed. Once these areas are converted into permeable surfaces that will absorb rainfall, they will no longer be counted as part of the impervious coverage on your property; this may result in fewer billing units, and a lower stormwater utility bill.
Property owners may take credit for the treatment provided by existing stormwater facilities on their property. The amount of the credit will depend upon the year that the facility was constructed, and whether or not is has been maintained and is functioning properly. Details on the amounts of these credits, and the process for applying for a credit, are contained in the Credit and Incentive Manual. The City is currently working with the Washington County Soil Conservation District to finalize a small-scale credit program geared to individual homeowners.
New treatment facilities can range from something as big as a brand new water quality filtering structure, to something as small as the installation of a rain barrel or a rain garden on a residential lot. By providing a level of treatment for runoff, property owners will help the City to meet its overall treatment requirement. If a property owner is interested in installing a new treatment on their property, we recommend that they first contact the office of the City Engineer to discuss the project to ensure that it will indeed qualify for a reduction in their stormwater utility bill.