Mayor’s message: Why a stormwater utility?

Everyone has a new bill in the mail but not everyone knows what it’s for.

By Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps

Everyone has a new bill in the mail but not everyone knows what it’s for.

The City of Victoria is rebooting its Climate Action program. In a report from city staff earlier this year, we all got a bit of a wakeup call. For the most part Victoria thinks of itself as a green, sustainable place. While many are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint, overall the numbers are showing that we’re not on track to meet our greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of 33 per cent less than 2007 levels by 2020. City operations account for only one per cent of GHG emissions while those generated through residents and industry comprise 99 per cent. And while the city’s corporate emissions are slowly trending downwards, the community’s emissions are actually going up.

It’s in this context of climate action and building climate resilience that the city introduced a stormwater utility. While the stormwater utility won’t significantly reduce GHGs, it’s a long-term and forward looking climate change adaptation strategy as the climate is already changing around us. The introduction of the new utility also makes paying for the stormwater infrastructure more fair.

The stormwater system is a network of underground pipes that takes rainwater runoff from impervious surfaces — roads, driveways, parking lots, rooftops — and returns it to the ocean. Like much of our underground infrastructure, Victoria’s stormwater infrastructure is old and in need of repair and renewal.

Until this year with the introduction of the stormwater utility, property taxpayers were funding the maintenance and repair of the stormwater system regardless of property type or its impact on the system. This means, for example, that even if a homeowner had installed cisterns or a developer of a new building had gone to lots of work to put in a living roof, raingardens, or rainwater-reuse infrastructure, they were still paying into the system in the same way as the owner of a property with mostly impervious surfaces and a larger impact on the stormwater system.

The stormwater utility puts an end to this unfair system and ensures — just like water consumption — that people pay for what they are using and don’t subsidize others. There is no new fee to residents. We were all paying for the maintenance and repair of the stormwater system before. With the creation of the stormwater utility we reduced the property tax bill by about $4.5 million and billed this amount through a user pay system.

When council approved the development of this new utility in 2012, city staff undertook an analysis of all properties in the city to calculate the amount of impervious surface on each property, and length of street cleaning frontage. The less impervious surface a property has the less the property owner pays into the stormwater system. We’ve also created a Rainwater Rewards Program (victoria.ca/EN/main/departments/engineering/stormwater/rainwater_rewards_program.html) to create incentives for property owners to divert rainwater from the system and to clean it, taking the pressure off the system for the long term.

This past October saw the highest rainfall on record, and while the new billing structure is not a tax nor is it proportional to the rain that falls — the capacity of the stormwater system is limited.

Reducing the amount of water entering the stormwater system increases the city’s resilience and reduces flooding risks. Climate change is already upon us. The stormwater utility — and the financial incentives that come with it — help us all to do our part in mitigating the effects of climate change and keeping our waterways and beaches cleaner.

 

 

Just Posted

Victoria BC Transit driver taken to hospital after assault

Driver attempted to stop an altercation between two people on the bus

Art takes a personal tone during the 110th anniversary of the Victoria Sketch Club

The 47th annual art show is taking place until March 24

CRD’s 2019 financial plan includes 23 per cent increase for capital projects

Housing, health care and wastewater projects included in 2019 plan

How a scrawny kid from Oak Bay bulked into one of rugby sevens’ best

Doing it for Dylan, Oak Bay’s Connor Braid at the top of his game

After mosque attacks, New Zealand bans ‘military-style’ guns

The gunman killed 50 in a Christchurch mosque

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

Short list for new gnome home includes Parksville, Coombs

Five potential locations have been chosen by Howard’s owners who will decide Tuesday

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Baby left alone in vehicle in Walmart parking lot

Williams Lake RCMP issue warning after attending complaint at Walmart Wednesday

Nowhere to grieve: How homeless people deal with loss during the opioid crisis

Abbotsford homeless advocate says grief has distinct challenges for those living on the streets

Most Read