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City of Philadelphia

Residential Stormwater Billing

Residential Stormwater Charge

Residential customers pay a standard amount based on the average surface area of impervious cover on residential properties throughout the city.

Stormwater Parcel Viewer

This web application lets users explore parcels on an interactive map, including high resolution ortho-photography, transparent overlays of impervious surfaces, and tools to make approximate measurements of length and area.

The Philadelphia Water Department offers free rain barrels and subsidized pricing on residential landscape improvements that manage stormwater. For more information read about the Rain Check program.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the impacts of stormwater runoff?

Stormwater adversely impacts the quality of our surface waters, as it carries with it various pollutants, sediments, and other debris from the surfaces over which it runs off. Stormwater also creates quantity problems which results in flooding, stream bank erosion, combined sewer overflows (CSO), basement flooding, and sewer backups.

What is stormwater runoff?

Stormwater runoff is water that flows over our yards, streets, buildings, parking lots, swimming pools and other surfaces when it rains.

How is stormwater runoff managed?

Stormwater runoff either flows directly into the nearest water bodies such as our local streams, ponds, rivers, and oceans, or is captured and is conveyed through the City‟s sewer pipes to the City‟s wastewater treatment facilities. Examples of stormwater management services include maintaining stormwater pipes and inlets, combined sewer pipe rehabilitation to abate flooding conditions, stream restoration, CSO management to reduce combined sewer overflows, and reducing pollution loading to the City‟s streams and waterways.

What activities does my stormwater bill fund?

PWD uses revenue generated from stormwater billing to fund a variety of activities including maintenance of the City‟s network of pipes and inlets that convey stormwater and implementing stormwater management and stream restoration projects to reduce combined sewer overflows and pollutant loading to the City‟s streams and waterways.

What constitutes a residential property?

Residential properties are those with structures containing one and no more than four dwelling units, but exclude properties with dormitories, nursing homes, hotels, or motels.

What is a Stormwater Management Service (SWMS) charge?

A SWMS charge is assessed to recover the costs the City incurs in providing stormwater management services to create a healthy living environment and to comply with State and Federal regulations. The City‟s annual stormwater management costs exceed $100 Million.

Is the SWMS charge a “Tax?”

No, the SWMS charge is NOT a tax. The SWMS charge is a utility user fee similar to a water utility charge.

What is the basis of my SWMS charge? Is my SWMS charge based on my water consumption?

SWMS charge is NOT based on your monthly water consumption. The SWMS Charge is based on two parameters: the average Gross Area square footage and the average Impervious Area square footage for all residential properties.

The average Gross Area for a residential property is 2,110 square feet. The average Impervious Area for a residential property is 1,050 square feet. Based on this average Gross Area and Impervious Area values, a uniform monthly charge has been defined for all residential properties.

What is a Gross Area (GA)?

Gross Area refers to all of the property area contained within the legally described boundaries of a property and does not include portions of sidewalk that are in the public Right-of-Way. In other words, GA refers to the total lot size of a property.

What is Impervious Area (IA)?

Impervious Area means the total square feet of any surfaces on the property which are compacted or are covered with material that restricts infiltration of water, including semi-pervious surfaces such as compacted clay, most conventionally hard-scaped surfaces such as streets, driveways, roofs, sidewalks, parking lots, attached and detached structures, and other similar surfaces.

Is the parcel based SWMS charge a new fee used to increase utility revenues?

No, the SWMS charge is NOT a new user charge, and it does not increase utility revenues. The City‟s sewer customers have always paid the SWMS charge as part of their monthly sewer charges. The SWMS charge was previously included in the „Service Charge‟ portion of your bill. As of July 1, 2010, the method of SWMS charge calculation changed from a meter size-based charge to a parcel area-based charge. Additionally, the SWMS charge assessment is presented as a separate line item in your Water/Sewer/Stormwater Bill.

Why did PWD change the method of SWMS charge assessment?

Historically, PWD calculated SWMS charges based on the size of the water meter(s) located in a property. However, such an approach creates inequity as (i) the size of the water meter bears limited relationship to the volume of stormwater runoff from a property; and (ii) properties such as vacant lots or parking lots without any water meter did not contribute to stormwater cost recovery.

The parcel area-based charge provides a more equitable mechanism for calculating the SWMS charge, which is based on the square footage of Gross Area and Impervious Area. Properties with larger lot size and larger impervious areas will generate more stormwater than properties with smaller lot size and smaller impervious areas. Therefore, the parcel area-based SWMS charge approach establishes a reasonable relationship between the stormwater burden imposed by a property and the calculated SWMS charge.

How is the SWMS charge billed for my property?

If your property has water and/or sewer accounts, then the SWMS charge is assessed as a separate line item in your water/sewer monthly bill. However, if your property does not have a water and/or sewer account, then you will receive a water bill with just the SWMS charge.

How is the SWMS charge assessed if I have multiple water accounts on my property?

The uniform monthly SWMS charge is equally apportioned among all the water accounts that exist on your property. For example, if your property has two water/sewer accounts, then each water/sewer account is assigned 50% of the total monthly SWMS charge.

If there are multiple water accounts on my property, can I request a specific allocation of SWMS charges among the water accounts?

Yes, if you would like a custom allocation of the SWMS charge among the accounts located on your property, you can request a specific distribution by filing FORM A-1 “Revised Charge Allocation” Application. However, the sum of the SWMS charge distributions should equal the total SWMS charge determined for that property.

Stormwater from my property drains directly to a stream or river. Will I still be assessed a parcel-based charge?

Yes, maintenance of streams and rivers within City limits is also the responsibility of PWD. Unmanaged stormwater from impervious surfaces causes stream bank and stream channel erosion and degrades water quality by introducing pollutants into streams. Since the City obtains its drinking water from the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, upgrading stormwater systems is a key aspect of protecting the City‟s drinking water supply. Federal mandates also require PWD to improve stream quality to comply with the Clean Water Act. Addressing these issues requires a large financial investment to fund stream and watershed studies, stream restoration projects, and stormwater management projects. PWD has already implemented a number of these projects and will be accelerating these programs in future years.

My property is tax exempt. Do I still have to pay the SWMS charge?

Yes, the SWMS charge is a “User Fee” and not a tax. Therefore, all tax exempt properties that are within the City limits are still required to pay a SWMS charge.

How will the water, sewer, and stormwater charges be accounted if I only pay a portion of my bill and not the entire bill amount?

When you make a payment (whether a partial amount or a full amount), your payment will be posted to the appropriate service in the following order:
1. Penalties and Interest (if any)
2. SWMS charge
3. Sewer charge
4. Water charge

What is my recourse if I receive a SWMS charge for a property I do not own?

If you are a tenant who is responsible for water and sewer charges, then you are also responsible for SWMS charges. However, if you are not a tenant and do not own the property, then you can submit a stormwater appeal using FORM A – “Stormwater Management Service Charge Adjustment Appeal Application” to get the issue resolved.

What are the conditions under which I can dispute the SWMS charge?

Per PWD‟s stormwater appeals policies, customers can submit a stormwater appeal using FORM A – “Adjustment Appeal Application” for any one of the following reasons:
  •  Incorrect Parcel
  •  Inaccurate Property Classification
  •  Residential Sideyard

I am a residential property owner and I received a bill for my garage lot. Is this a mistake?

This is not a mistake. If the garage that you own is on a separate deed/tax parcel that is not a part of your residential parcel, then you will receive a separate stormwater fee for the garage parcel. However, your garage may qualify for a sideyard exemption if it is adjacent to your residential parcel, and if your residential parcel and the adjacent garage or sideyard parcels are deeded under the same ownership.
If you believe your garage would qualify as a sideyard, you can submit a stormwater appeal using FORM A – “Adjustment Appeal Application”.

The information you have on my parcel is not correct. How can this be fixed?

Please fill out an Appeals Form using FORM A – “Stormwater Management Service Charge Adjustment Appeal Application” to let us know how our information about their parcel is inaccurate.