Stormwater Bill Questions

The Stormwater Utility Fee
The City of Durham has many requirements because of its NPDES permit. These include closely managing the stormwater drainage system, eliminating illegal dumping, tracking our water quality, enforcing the city’s stormwater ordinance, and involving the public in these processes. Regulations such as the Jordan Lake Nutrient Management Rules, Falls Lake Nutrient Sensitive Waters Management Plan, and Total Maximum Daily Load requirements for Third Fork Creek and Northeast Creek are likely to create even more responsibilities for the city in the near future.

These program requirements all have their cost. The federal government requires the city to designate a steady source of funds to cover these costs. As with other such expenses, the city has to pass the cost of providing these services on to its residents (this is allowed by State of North Carolina regulations).

Fees & Taxes
The city has 2 tools to fund services it provides residents: fees and taxes. Property taxes are based on the value of a property which is not an accurate indicator of how much stormwater flows off of that property. A utility fee allows the city to bill properties based on the runoff they create. In addition, the city completed a study that determined it would be less expensive, for both the city and its residents, to distribute stormwater related expenses as a utility fee rather than an increase in property taxes. This fee became part of the city’s municipal ordinance in 1994. This ordinance was updated in 2004, 2009, and then again in 2010.

Impervious Surface
The amount of impervious surface area on a property is the single most important factor affecting the amount of water flowing off a property and how quickly that water flows off a property. The amount and velocity of stormwater is important because it can affect flooding, erosion, and how much pollution the water is able to carry with it. Research has shown that as the amount of impervious surface in an area increases, the amount of polluted runoff also increases. Because of this, basing stormwater utility fees on the impervious area on a property is one of the most common methods used to determine fees in North Carolina.

The City of Durham is 1 of more than 30 North Carolina governments that base its utility fees on the amount of impervious area on a property. All developed land in the city, whether public or private, is charged this stormwater utility fee. Exemptions are not allowed based on age, tax exemption, or other status of the property owner.

Billing Tiers
As of July 1, 2009, residential properties are assigned to 1 of 3 tiers based on the amount of impervious area on the property. More information is available about how the impervious area for a property is calculated. Learn more about the 3 residential billing tiers. Non-residential properties are billed based on how many equivalent residential units (ERU) of impervious area are on the property. In Durham, an ERU is 2,400 square feet. For every ERU, commercial properties are charged $6.75/month. To learn more about how non-residential properties are billed, visit the stormwater utility fee rates page.

How Fees Are Used
The stormwater utility fee generates approximately $14 million annually. This money is used for activities such as:
  • Keeping our roads clean (street sweeping, litter control, and dead animal removal)
  • Maintaining, cleaning, and repairing the public drainage system that helps protect lives and property from flooding
  • Running the household hazardous waste collection program
  • Inspecting commercial and industrial facilities to make sure they comply with the city’s stormwater ordinance
  • Reviewing and permitting stormwater controls like retention ponds and other best management practices
  • Complying with federal and state requirements related to stormwater and water quality
  • Monitoring local water quality and running an illicit discharge identification and elimination program
  • Stream restoration projects that help protect our local waterways
  • Educating residents about preventing stormwater pollution