Stormwater Utility

Overview:

A Stormwater Utility is used to operate and fund a stormwater management program. It is considered the most equitable method of funding a stormwater program because of three features. First, the fees charged are based on the property’s contribution to the need for stormwater management. Second, all users of the system pay to use the program (user-fee system). Third, all collected fees must be spent only on operating and administering the stormwater management program.

The requirements to operate and maintain the stormwater system continues to increase. In 2020, the City of Johns Creek completed a citywide assessment of the stormwater system to determine the condition of the system and to estimate the cost associated with repair and maintenance over the next 10 years. Current infrastructure system of pipes will require repair and replacement due to age and deterioration. Also, the Federal Government passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, which has placed ever increasing requirements on the City to improve stormwater quality and quantity and requires the City to maintain a stormwater program that includes:
 
  • Public education and outreach
  • Detect illicit discharge (i.e. straight piping or dumping)
  • Control construction site runoff
  • Control post-construction runoff
  • Perform municipal housekeeping (i.e. steps to prevent runoff from City buildings and activities)
  • Maintain and repair the City drainage system

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What is a Stormwater Utility?

A Stormwater Utility is used to operate and fund a stormwater management program. It is considered the most equitable method of funding a stormwater program because of three features. First, the fees charged are based on the property’s contribution to the need for stormwater management. Second, all users of the system pay to use the program (user-fee system). Third, all collected fees must be spent only on operating and administering the stormwater management program.

 

2. What are the benefits of a Stormwater Management Program?

Stormwater management helps maintain the base flow in nearby stream and wetlands, replenishing drinking water supplies and reducing the overall volume of runoff to help with erosion. Another important factor of stormwater management is that it helps to prevent pollution by supporting good water quality. This is essential to supporting the overall environment, by sustaining existing ecosystems and improving community health, function and resiliency. Runoff can include bacteria and organic matter from trash and animal waste, oil and grease from vehicles on the roads, toxic chemicals like pesticides and more. Many of these pollutants carry nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment which in small amounts are beneficial to aquatic systems but in larger amounts are detrimental to system health and function, and the environment. Operation of an effective stormwater management program by establishing a stormwater utility will benefit the quality of life of Johns Creek residents as well as the health and function of local bodies of water. 

3. Why do we need a utility?

The City Council is considering expanding the extent of service from right-of-way to headwall to headwall, which requires additional funding. As part of this discussion, in 2020, the City of Johns Creek completed a citywide assessment of the stormwater system to determine the condition of the system and to estimate the cost associated with repair and maintenance over the next 10 years. Current infrastructure system of pipes will require repair and replacement due to age and deterioration. Also, the Federal Government passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, which has placed ever increasing requirements on the City to improve stormwater quality and quantity and requires the City to maintain a stormwater program that includes:

  • Public education and outreach
  • Detect illicit discharge (i.e. straight piping or dumping)
  • Control construction site runoff
  • Control post-construction runoff
  • Perform municipal housekeeping (i.e. steps to prevent runoff from City buildings and activities)
  • Maintain and repair the City drainage system

 

4. What is a Stormwater Utility Fee?

A Stormwater Utility Fee is a user fee providing for the most equitable assignment of costs to operate the stormwater management program. Stormwater fees are akin to fees property owners pay for water and electric utilities or sanitation services. Users of these services are charged based on the demand (runoff) they place on the system. 

5. Who has to pay the fee?

All property owners will pay a stormwater utility fee - residential homeowners, commercial properties, churches/religious institutions, nonprofit organizations, and schools. A user fee is not a tax and does not exempt certain properties such as schools and churches.

 

6. How are fees calculated?

The fee is based on the amount of stormwater runoff that flows off of a property. The single most important factor in determining the amount of stormwater runoff from a property is the amount of impervious surface on a property.  The City is currently conducting a rate study examining all properties based on factors that affect stormwater runoff. City Council approval to establish the fee will occur in 2021. More information will be shared in the future.

7. Why is the fee based on impervious surface?

Impervious surfaces prevent stormwater from infiltrating into the ground to recharge groundwater and causes the rainfall to runoff into channels, swales, pipes and streams. Impervious surface is the primary factor of stormwater runoff from a property.

8. What is considered as impervious surface?

Impervious surfaces are surfaces composed of any material that significantly impedes or prevents the natural infiltration of water into the soil. Examples of impervious surface includes, but are not limited to, rooftops, driveways, sidewalks, patios, decks, parking lots, swimming pools and storage sheds. 

9. How does the City determine impervious surface?

The City uses aerial photographs, maps and digital surface coverages to identify impervious surface area on properties.

10. How much is the fee?

The City is currently conducting a rate study and more information will be provided in the future. City Council approval is required to establish the final fee, which will occur in 2021. 

The following table provides examples of several stormwater utilities in metro Atlanta and their fees.

Stormwater Utility Rates

Jurisdictions

Monthly Rate

DeKalb County

$4.00

Dunwoody

$6.39

Duluth

$5.16

Gwinnett County

$6.15*

Lawrenceville

$5.00

Peachtree Corners

$6.15*

Roswell

$4.15

*Based on property with 3,000 SF impervious

 


11. How can I reduce my fee?

Most stormwater utilities provide credits based on the property owner installing or maintaining a stormwater management practice found in the Georgia Stormwater Management Manual. Newer residential subdivisions and commercial developments already have stormwater management practices installed and a credit would be received by maintaining that practice.
 
The City is working to establish a credit policy as part of its stormwater utility fee program. More information will be shared in the future.

12. What does the City Maintain?

The current extent of service is limited to maintaining, repairing and replacing pipes and structures located within the limits of the public right-of-way. As part of the implementation of the stormwater utility fee program, City Council will expand the extent of service area for single-family residential properties to include conveyances (pipes) and structures, extending to the first headwall upstream and downstream from a public right-of-way.
 
All property owners are responsible to maintain swales, ditches, streams and detention/retention ponds, both on-ground and underground, that are located on private property outside the public right-of-way.
 

13. How can you ask questions about the utility program?

The City has created a dedicated email address to receive your questions at stormwaterutility@johnscreekga.gov.

 
Key Definitions:

Channel is a long, narrow excavation or surface feature that conveys surface water and is open to the air. Channels may be constructed or natural. 

Clean Water Act is federal environmental law that includes the management of stormwater. Learn more about the Clean Water Act on the Environmental Protection Agency's website.

Detention means the temporary storage of stormwater runoff in a stormwater detention facility for the purpose of controlling the peak discharge.
 
Detention facility means a facility that collects water from developed areas and releases it at a slower rate than it enters the collection system. The excess of inflow over outflow is temporarily stored in a pond, tank, or vault and is typically released over a few hours or a few days.
 
Detention Pond is a structure to which stormwater runoff is directed, held for a period of time (detained), and slowly released to a surface water body. A dry pond is not designed to permanently contain water.
 
Erosion is a process that moves material, especially soil, from one location to another. Erosion is caused by the action of wind, water, or other forces working on the earth’s surface.
 
Impervious surface means a surface composed of any material that significantly impedes or prevents the natural infiltration of water into soil. Impervious surfaces include, but are not limited to, rooftops, buildings, streets and roads, and any concrete or asphalt surface.
 
Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) is a storm system that flows through its own set of pipes rather than being combined with the sewer system. Johns Creek has its own storm system that discharges into streams, lakes, and rivers.
 
Sediment means solid material, both organic and inorganic, that is in suspension, is being transported or has been moved from its site of origin by air, water, ice or gravity as a product of erosion.
 
Sedimentation means the process by which eroded material is transported and deposited by the action of water, wind, ice or gravity.
 
Stormwater management facility means any infrastructure that effects stormwater management and which controls or conveys stormwater runoff.
 
Stormwater conveyance is a series of inlets and pipes (typically underground) used to collect and convey stormwater to a discharge point such as a stream, river, lake, detention/retention pond or other waterbody.
 
Stormwater runoff means the flow on the surface of the ground, resulting from precipitation.
 
Stormwater structure typically accounts for structures that make up components of stormwater facilities, such as catch basins, headwalls, culverts, and inlets.
 
Swale is a broad, shallow, gently sloped channel for conveying stormwater runoff.
 
Retention Pond is a stormwater control structure with a permanent pool of water in which stormwater runoff is directed. Runoff from each storm is retained, allowing suspended sediment particles and associated pollutants to settle out.
 
Riprap is a facing layer or protective mound of stones placed to prevent erosion or sloughing of a structure or embankment due to the flow of surface and storm water runoff. More information regarding regulation of riprap by the GA EPD can be accessed by following this link - https://epd.georgia.gov/document/publication/minor-land-disturbing-guidance-revised-4-5-17docx/download.
 

**For more information on the City’s stormwater Management Program, please visit**