Storm Water Utility Fee

The City of Burlington Iowa charges a storm water utility fee to all developed properties within the Corporate Limits of the city.  This fee provides funding upgrades and continuous maintenance of the City’s storm water infrastructure.  The City recently restructured how the storm water utility fee is administered through a revision of Chapter 100 of the Code of Ordinances, Stormwater Management and Drainage Systems Utility,  on May 21, 2018. The ordinance changed the fee calculation to an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) based system.

How is a storm water utility fee different from a tax?

The storm water utility fee is a user fee, much like the fee that you pay for your water utility or sanitary sewer utility services. Users of these services are charged for the demand they place on the system. The ERU based fee system (see below) is a fair and equitable way to raise revenue for the program since it charges those who directly contribute to its need.

The storm water that flows off your property places a demand on a vast system of storm water infrastructure.  The City’s storm water infrastructure consists of all rivers, streams, creeks, branches, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, drainage ways, channels, ditches, swales, storm sewers, inlets, catch basins, pipes, head walls and other structures, natural or manmade, within the political boundaries of the City of Burlington.  This infrastructure is costly to operate and maintain.  The city is taking a proactive approach to minimize the impacts of flooding and storm water pollution from the runoff generated from rooftops, yards, parking lots, and streets.


How does the Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) system work?

The ERU method is used in over 80% of all storm water utilities across the country[1].  The method works by assigning an average impervious surface for each household within the City.  During the restructuring of Chapter 100 of the Code of Ordinances various households across Burlington were reviewed to establish an average impervious surface of 3,360 square feet (the Equivalent Residential Unit).  Next, a cost was established, based on the average home’s monthly storm water cost to the community.  This cost was initially set at a rate of $2.58/ERU/month, and is revised each year via City resolution.

Each residential household is billed the cost for 1 ERU/month, regardless of impervious surface. Commercial and Industrial facilities are independently evaluated to determine an associated impervious surface. Once determined, the total impervious surface is divided by the square footage in 1 ERU (3,360) to determine how many ERUs are attributed to each property.  Any remaining fraction of ERUs are rounded up to the nearest whole number and multiplied by the cost per ERU to establish the monthly bill for the property.  An example of this can be seen below:  

Burlington School District
Burlington HS Rate

What is considered impervious surface?

An impervious surface is any improved surface that increases the rate that storm water runs off a site.  Typically, these surfaces are rooftops, parking lots, and streets (including gravel surfaces).  Nonresidential properties can view a summary of their impervious surface and an ERU fee calculation at www.dmcgis.com (see example below).

Summary
  1. Select Layers in the upper right navigation panel.
  2. Under Burlington Layers Select “ERU Fee Assignment.”  For best results, make sure all other layers are turned off.
  3. Click on the impervious surface (white translucent) polygon for a PDF that summarizes the amount of impervious area, ERU calculation, and monthly billing rate.

Any errors in the amount of impervious surface can be addressed by contacting the City Engineer via one of the following methods:

Mail:       3510 Division Street
               Burlington, Iowa 52601
Email:    howej@burlingtoniowa.org
Phone:   319-753-8176

How does Burlington’s fee compare to other Communities?

The Iowa Storm Water Education Partnership (ISWEP) provides storm water resources to communities across the state.  In a 2017 study ISWEP gathered information from 63 municipalities in Iowa.  Below is a summary of how Burlington’s current storm water utility compares to the 2017 averages:

Storm Water Utility Fee Comparison

Item Burlington 63 Community Average
ERU Size (square feet)
3,360 3,976
Cost/ERU $2.58 $4.00
Credits Offered?
Yes
10% of communities
surveyed

Storm Water Credit System

The City of Burlington offers a storm water credit to users that offset their impact to the storm water collection network.  The credit is provided in the form of an ERU reduction by percentage.  Applicants should carefully review the Storm Water Utility Fee Credit Program and evaluate which criteria they meet. 

What is the purpose of a storm water credit?

The storm water credit program offers alternatives for users with high impervious surface to reduce their impact on the storm water system by installing controls.  Based on the effectiveness of the controls installed, storm water utility fees can be reduced up to 65%.

Who is eligible for a storm water credit?

Storm water credits can be obtained by all nonresidential users that are charged more than 1 ERU on their storm water utility fee.

How is a storm water credit obtained?

Upon identification of a qualifying infrastructure, users will complete the Storm Water Credit Application form and provide all required information (shown below).  Once all required documentation has been submitted, the City Engineer’s office will review the application and provide written notice of the outcome of the application within 60 days.  All credits will be applied retroactively (back to the date the complete application was submitted).

StormwaterSubmissionChecklist Opens in new window