Stormwater Utility Implementation

About the Stormwater Utility

Imp-cover-SFH.png The County is changing how we fund the Stormwater Management Program. Since 2008, most property owners have paid a sanitary district tax (part of their real estate tax) for stormwater management. Beginning in 2024, the County will replace the sanitary district tax with a Stormwater Utility fee based on the amount of impervious area on a property (hard surfaces like roofs and driveways that don’t let rain runoff soak into the ground, as shown in yellow in the image at right). Customers will receive the first real estate bill with the Stormwater Utility fee in May 2024.

On April 22, 2023, the Board approved a resolution stating their intent to adopt the new Stormwater Utility fee, which is based on how much stormwater runoff each property generates. The County is making this change now because the rise in severe flooding in recent years requires us to increase investments in our stormwater system, and a utility is a fairer way to distribute the cost. These investments will help maintain, upgrade, and scale our stormwater infrastructure to better protect Arlington from future severe rainstorms.

There will be another public hearing in fall 2023 before the Board officially adopts the utility, ordinances, and sets the Calendar Year 2024 utility rate. Learn more about the transition from the sanitary district tax to the Stormwater Utility with the Stormwater Utility Feasibility Study and in this video.

Explore Stormwater Utility Resources

What to Expect

SWU-multifamily.jpg Learn what to expect if you live in a single-family home or a multi-family home, and if you manage a non-residential commercial building or tax-exempt organization in Arlington.

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Fee Estimator

Fee Estimator Page.jpg Want to get a better idea of your future Stormwater Utility fee and how the new rate was calculated? An online tool is available to help you estimate the number of Stormwater Utility billing units on your property.

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Credit Program

Credit Manual Cover.jpg From November 1, 2023 through January 15, 2024, all property owners in Arlington can apply for voluntary credits offsetting up to 35% of their Stormwater Utility bill. Qualifying credit opportunities will be calculated based the type of property and actions taken, such as tree planting, volunteer activities, and installing some types of pervious surfaces. Actions taken during Calendar Year 2023 will be eligible for credit on the first bill in May 2024, so you can start getting ready today.

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There will be a dispute and appeal process for property owners if they would like to dispute the impervious area measurement for their property. Stay tuned for more information.



Stormwater Utility FAQs

Can you explain how a Stormwater Utility fee works?

Under a Stormwater Utility, a property’s impervious coverage is estimated using the County’s digital mapping system (GIS). The median impervious coverage for single-family detached properties in Arlington has been calculated to be 2,400 square feet. This is called an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) and is used as the billing unit. Properties would be charged based on how many ERUs are on the property. An ERU is currently estimated to be $230-250/year. Please note that the fee estimates may change as the budget and Stormwater Utility are finalized. The County Board will adopt the annual ERU rate each year during the budget process. For Calendar Year 2024 (the first year the utility will be billed), the rate will be set during fall 2023.

What are impervious areas?

Impervious areas are hard surfaces that significantly prevent water from seeping into the soil. Impervious surfaces include roofs, buildings, streets, parking areas, driveways, and any concrete, asphalt, or compacted gravel surface. 

How is the impervious area calculated for each property?

Outlines of the impervious area on a property are developed from aerial maps and geographic information system (GIS) data. A GIS technician manually reviews the imagery and outlines impervious areas as defined by County policies. That information is combined with GIS parcel data, resulting in an outline of impervious area on each parcel. The GIS software then calculates the impervious area on the parcel based on that outline. County GIS staff perform regular maintenance of the impervious area based on updated aerial imagery, building permits, and other sources.

Will the stormwater utility fee replace the sanitary district tax?

Yes, the stormwater utility fee will replace the sanitary district tax. The County is changing how we fund the Stormwater Management Program. Since 2008, the stormwater program has been funded by a sanitary district tax based on a property’s real estate assessment. Beginning in 2024, the County will change to a Stormwater Utility fee based on the amount of impervious area on a property (hard surfaces like roofs and driveways that don’t let rain runoff soak into the ground). Customers will receive the first real estate bill with the Stormwater Utility fee in May 2024. 


How is the stormwater program currently funded?

Arlington’s stormwater program is currently funded through a Sanitary District Tax, which is based on a property’s assessed value. The current stormwater fee is $0.017 per $100 of assessed value. An average property pays about $136 per year under the sanitary district tax. However, a property’s assessed value doesn't correlate well to the amount of runoff a property generates.

What does the stormwater funding pay for?

Arlington’s stormwater programs are part of the Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management in the Department of Environmental Services including water quality regulations, planning, engineering, construction, stormwater infrastructure, and incentive and outreach programs. Learn more about the County’s stormwater management program.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issues permits for the discharge of stormwater into waterways like Four Mile Run and the Potomac River. These permits, called municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permits, are good for five years. Arlington’s current MS4 permit (VPDES Permit No. VA 0088579) was issued on July 1, 2021.

The previous Sanitary District Tax and the current Stormwater Utility fee generate all of the funding to support these programs. The Stormwater Utility fee is calculated on a cost recovery basis – fees are set to generate the necessary revenue for the stormwater management program.

More information about the stormwater management program’s budget can be found here starting on page 805.

Why is the County changing to a Stormwater Utility?

A Stormwater Utility provides a fairer way to pay for the County’s stormwater management program, based on the amount of hard surfaces (impervious area) on a property and the usage of the storm system. A property’s impervious area is a better measure of how much stormwater runoff each property generates, as opposed to the property assessment. 

What if all the runoff from my home and driveway stays in my yard and does not run off into the storm system?

Everyone will pay a stormwater utility fee based on the amount of impervious area on their property because all property owners benefit from a properly maintained and operated stormwater management system.  Some key benefits include reduced flooding; reduced property damage; protection of critical infrastructure (such as electrical, communications, drinking water, wastewater); safe transportation for residents; improved quality of life; cleaner streams; restored water habitat; and compliance with Federal and State regulations for water quality improvements.

Stormwater is an issue that extends far beyond one immediate residence or business and a robust stormwater management program provides benefits to the overall community in which you live, work, and play.

How was the utility decided? Will it go to a public vote?

After a public hearing held on March 28, 2023, the County Board approved a resolution on April 22, 2023, stating their intent to adopt a Stormwater Utility. There will be another public hearing before the Board officially adopts the utility, ordinances, and sets the Calendar Year 2024 utility rate in fall 2023.  There was an extensive engagement process leading up to the vote in April, 2023.

How does the County propose to bill the Stormwater Utility?

The Stormwater Utility fee will be included on property owners’ twice annual real estate tax bill as a separate line item. Real estate taxes are due June 15 and October 5 of each year.

If property owners have a mortgage on their property, the property tax bill will continue to be sent to their mortgage company. The mortgage company will pay the fee from the escrow account.

Are there any other municipalities that charge a Stormwater Utility fee?

Yes, stormwater fee-based programs are promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and authorized by the Commonwealth of Virginia as a way of providing dedicated funding for water resources and stormwater management. Stormwater fee-based programs have been used since 1974, and there are currently over 1,500 stormwater fee-based programs in the country. In the surrounding area, D.C., Prince George's County, the Cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Manassas, Fairfax, and Manassas Park all have Stormwater Utility fees in place.