New Black & Veatch Stormwater Report: Gaps Persist in Asset Health, Fee Structures, Customer Education

Stormwater management is gaining greater attention with climate change, infrastructure capacity challenges and financial pressures pushing systems to their limits. As utility managers and other decision makers take longer, more programmatic views of stormwater management and cost recovery, Black & Veatch today released the 2018 Stormwater Utility Survey to help utilities better understand program planning, best practices and regulatory requirements to meet these challenges.

The 12th edition of the report provides utility managers and community leaders with valuable benchmark information on key financial issues and stormwater user fee program policies that can impact funding, cost recovery, and community support. Available as a free download, Black & Veatch’s survey presents forward-looking insights on industry priorities and investment drivers, stormwater management and user fee practices, and comparative data on typical residential stormwater user fees.

Recent storms along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and such once-in-a-generation weather events, are stark reminders of the need for smart urban planning and development. However, it’s not just large-scale catastrophic wet-weather events that pose major challenges. Equally menacing are the smaller storms that frequently test system capacity, water quality, and community experience. Responses to issues of increasing regulatory requirements, adequacy of funding, and cost recovery continue to indicate an “alignment gap” among program needs, costs of service, level of fees, and customer buy-in, the report found.

“Knowing the diverse and complex financial, regulatory and community needs involved in stormwater management is critical for utilities,” said Dave Mayers, Water Industry Executive with Black & Veatch Management Consulting. “We want to help utilities stay ahead of trends, which in turn helps them plan for systems that are resilient and meet customer expectations.”

Among the report’s other notable findings:

  • Revenue: The 2014 survey found 38 percent of participants indicated that current funding was sufficient to meet most or all of their needs. In the 2018 survey that number shifted upward to 45 percent — still leaving 55 percent of utilities underfunded.
  • Stormwater rates: The median average monthly single-family charge, which is now at $5.48, continues to increase with each survey.
  • Stormwater credit programs: The number of utilities that have a stormwater credit program continues to see a gradual increase, rising from 44 percent to 53 percent in 2018.

The report offers an industry snapshot and perspective on organization and operations; planning; finance and accounting; rate structure and billing; credits and incentives; and a look at how cities educate the public about the health and costs of their stormwater systems.

“As socio-economic, regulatory, and technical norms associated with stormwater management continue to evolve, we have strived to capture those changing dynamics through our surveys,” said Prabha Kumar, a Director within Black & Veatch Management Consulting, who leads the stormwater utility consulting practice. “This year’s stormwater utility report continues that tradition of presenting the major stormwater management issues, technical practices, utility policies, and perspectives that utility managers have shared with us.”