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

City of Victoria to start charging illegal short-term rental operators

Anyone without a proper business license could face $500 per day in fines

Crown to appeal acquittal of Victoria masseur accused of sexual assault

BC Prosecution Service review of the ruling found ‘the judgment revealed errors of fact and law’

Bike thief steals elderly man’s electric-assist bike

Bicycle is a black Raleigh Sprite IE Electric stolen from 600-block of Toronto Street

City of Victoria reaches impasse on hosting a casino, votes to never reply to BCLC

Conflict between legal concerns and reconciliation push decision ‘into the ether’

What are the worst parking spots in Victoria?

We are looking for the worst places in the city to park and need your opinion

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered B.C. girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

Explosion sends B.C. firefighter to hospital

Kelowna fire crews responded to a blaze at Pope’sGallery of BC Art & Photography on Friday

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Arrest made after historic B.C. church hit by arson

The fire at the 150-year-old Murray United Church in Merritt was considered a possible hate crime

B.C. dangerous offender in court for violating no-contact order, sends letter to victim

Wayne Belleville was shocked to see a letter addressed to him from his shooter, Ronald Teneycke

Man blames his loud car radio, sirens for crash with B.C. ambulance

Tribunal rejects bid to recoup ICBC costs after crash deemed 100-per-cent his fault

Ferry from Port Hardy to Bella Coola expected to set sail this summer

Its first in-service route will sail in central coast waters on May 18, 2019.

Fashion Fridays: Inspirational gym outfits

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Most Read