Stormwater Utility Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is stormwater?
Stormwater runoff is the water that flows over the ground as the result of rain, snow melt, hail and sleet. Buildings, streets, driveways, parking lots, sidewalks and patios prevent the water from soaking into the ground. These structures are referred to as impervious surfaces. Runoff is collected by storm sewer infrastructure such as inlets and pipes and ultimately transported to the Arkansas River. As water flows over the ground, it picks up everything in its path, such as sediment, oil, grease, litter and chemicals, taking it all to the river without treatment.
2. Why is it important to manage stormwater?
Cañon City, like other communities, needs to manage stormwater to:
- Reduce flood risks that may impact public safety and loss or damage of property; and
- Prevent polluted stormwater from flowing directly into rivers and streams.
3. What services does the Stormwater Program provide?
- The Stormwater Program is administered by the Engineering Department. The following services are provided by the program: Annual billing and customer service
- Storm sewer cleaning services, which involve operation and maintenance of existing public drainage infrastructure
- Capital drainage improvement program, which involves design and construction of new infrastructure
- Stormwater Quality Program, which maintains compliance with Cañon City’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit requirements; and
- Floodplain Administration, which includes reviewing and approving development in flood risk areas and mapping of flood risk areas in accordance with the National Flood Insurance Program.
4. What is the Stormwater Utility?
The stormwater utility is an independent funding mechanism to pay for the cost of services related to the implementation of the stormwater management program, much like the water and wastewater utilities.
5. How much is the Stormwater Utility Fee?
The fee is $0.001821 per square foot of impervious surface on a property. This rate has not been increased since 2008.
6. What is Impervious Surface?
“Impervious Surface” means a surface area which is compacted or covered with material that is resistant to infiltration by water, including, but not limited to, most conventionally surfaced streets, roofs, sidewalks, patios, driveways, parking lots, and any other oiled, compacted, or other surface which impedes the natural infiltration of surface water.
7. Who is assessed a stormwater utility fee?
All property owners within the Cañon City limits are required to pay. This includes non-profit entities such as churches, schools and institutions, as well as properties owned by the City of Cañon City, Fremont County, the State of Colorado, and the federal government.
8. What is the billing cycle?
The Stormwater Utility fee is included with your water bill for those on City water. Residential water customers receive their bill every three months; therefore their stormwater utility fee is for a three-month period. Businesses receive their water bill monthly. For those residences within the city limits who are not on city water, the stormwater utility bill is sent out every three months.
9. Where is the Stormwater Utility Fee on my bill?
The Stormwater Utility fee is the first line under “Service Code & Description” on your water bill. The code is “ST” followed by the square footage of impervious area on the property. The square footage is multiplied by the utility rate of $0.001821 to give the fee for one month. For residential customers that sum is then multiplied by 3 for the 3-month billing period. For example, your property has 2628 square feet of impervious surface. To calculate the stormwater utility charge for 3 months (which is the residential billing cycle): 2628 x 0.001821 x 3 = $14.36.
10. I believe the amount of impervious surface listed on my bill is incorrect. What can I do?
You may contact the Stormwater Program at 719-276-5265 to inquire about the amount of impervious surface on your property or you can fill out the Stormwater Utility Inquiry/Update Form found here.
11. Why has the square footage of impervious area changed on my bill?
New impervious area may have been added to the property (e.g. sheds, driveways, patios) or impervious area may have been removed. Impervious area is updated through building permits for new structures or by periodic review of properties by stormwater personnel.
12. Is there a way to reduce my stormwater fee?
Fees can be reduced through the replacement of excess impervious area (such as unused parking lots) with landscaped green space. Fees may also be adjusted for properties where impervious surfaces have been added specifically for mobility impairment above and beyond what would be typical for the type of residence. To learn more about this program, or to see if your property is eligible, please contact the City Engineer’s office at 719-269-9010.
13. Why does my neighbor/friend pay more/less than I do?
The Stormwater Utility Fee is a fixed rate. The actual fee amount is based on the total amount of impervious area on a property, which varies from property to property.
14. No runoff from stormwater drains off my property, why do I have to pay?
While some people believe that no stormwater runs off their property into the system, this may be true for smaller storm events; however, during larger storms this would be impossible. Also, water that soaks into the ground may still eventually enter groundwater or migrate into the stormwater system underground. Additionally, we all use the City street system as drivers or recipients of goods and services. This network of impervious surfaces’ impact must be mitigated as well by us all collectively paying for its management. All residents within the Cañon City limits benefit from the repair and maintenance of the stormwater system and from capital projects which protect our community. Remember that it is not only the quantity of stormwater the City is managing, but also the water quality of the runoff. The programs mandated by the City’s stormwater permit, and funded by the utility fee, help keep the runoff as clean as possible without actual active treatment, which benefits everyone.
15. Will using rain barrels to capture roof runoff reduce my Stormwater Utility Fee?
No. The Stormwater Utility fee was never intended to be a “rain drop for rain drop” comparison as to how much rain falls on a property and how much runs off the property. Even water captured in rain barrels will eventually make its way back into the hydrologic system. The fee is based on the amount of impervious surfaces on each property and is the most equitable for all citizens to contribute to the cost of maintaining and improving our stormwater infrastructure. All residents within Cañon City benefit from the repair and maintenance of the stormwater system and from capital projects which protect our community.
16. What is the size of the Stormwater Utility Service Area?
The Stormwater Utility Service Area encompasses all properties within the Cañon City limits. The Stormwater Utility currently provides public drainage services for about 12.41 square miles. This service area is subject to change as the City annexes areas. Within the service area, the City is responsible for maintaining approximately 98.15 miles of paved roads (which are considered part of our drainage system), 651 storm inlets, approximately 18.3 miles of storm sewer pipeline, 432 culverts and 41 permanent stormwater facilities such as detention basins and water quality vaults.
17. How much does the stormwater utility fee collect per year?
The Stormwater Utility Fee collects approximately $800,000 per year.
18. Is the stormwater utility fee tax deductible?
No, the Stormwater Utility fee is not tax deductible and cannot be claimed on your taxes. This fee is the same as any other utility service such as water, sewer, or electricity.
19. Who fixes clogged storm drains?
Report any clogged storm drains to the Cañon City Stormwater Program at 719-276-5265. You may also fill out an on-line report here. We will contact the responsible entity as applicable.
20. How are other communities addressing stormwater issues?
Approximately 30 communities in Colorado have stormwater utilities that incorporate fees comparable to the stormwater utility fee that Cañon City has established. Others use dedicated property taxes, development fees, sales taxes, and other sources in various combinations to finance their stormwater management programs.
21. How can I learn more?
For more information about the Stormwater Utility, click here. For more information about stormwater quality and the Stormwater Program, click here. Or contact the Stormwater Program at 719-276-5265.