More than $24.2 million annually is generated from SWM Utility service charges. The county also pursues state and federal grants to offset the cost of some services.
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All properties contribute to the problem of surface water runoff, and they benefit from the county drainage system through flood control and improvements in water quality. All residents contribute to water pollution through daily activities such as vehicle driving, car washing, pet waste, and lawn fertilizing.
Starting in 2021, Surface Water Management has transitioned to a tiered rate structure with all parcels paying a Base Rate. Additional overlays based on service areas (Water Quality (WQ) and River) cover 25% of the total cost of providing these services. The remaining cost of these services is included in the base rate. Other changes include charging agriculture lands at a similar rate to single family residences (SFR) and removing exemptions for federal lands.
- Identifying, designing, and constructing projects to reduce the risk of flood damage and to improve water quality - Working to prevent further impacts to floodplains and natural waterways through regulations, property acquisition, education and outreach, and other methods - Inspecting and providing technical assistance for more than 2,200 private and public stormwater facilities - Collecting water samples and tracking water quality trends to help protect stream, drinking water, swimming areas, and shellfish beds from polluted runoff - Maintaining levees along the Puyallup, White, Carbon, and Nisqually Rivers - Responding to more than 1,000 customer service calls per year regarding flooding, water pollution, and drainage problems - Coordinating salmon recovery efforts in Pierce County
The cost of providing SWM services is also covered by other revenue sources, including real-estate excise tax (REET) and federal and state grants.
SWM Utility service charges may be reduced if you have a stormwater drainage system that meets certain conditions. For more information, visit www.piercecountywa.org/swmcredit or call (253) 798-2725.
The SWM Utility service charges have been adjusted several times, largely due to the increased cost of constructing and maintaining the county-wide drainage system and aging levee system. In addition, SWM Utility service charges fund the county’s requirement to comply with the Federal Clean Water Act. The requirements for compliance are outlined in the municipal stormwater permit, which requires specific steps by the county to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff. Beginning in 2007, Pierce County requirements and the cost of complying with the Federal Clean Water Act increased significantly. More requirements took effect in August 2013. Some of these requirements include: - Inspections and maintenance of the entire County drainage system - Inspections and maintenance of county roadways and property - Business-inspection program - Technical assistance to home and business owners to reduce pollution - Water quality monitoring in local streams
As it does for all Pierce County utility rates, the Pierce County Council reviews, holds public hearings, and adopts SWM Utility service charges by ordinance. Pierce County Code (PCC) 11.02 authorizes the creation, method of calculating service charges, and other requirements related to the SWM Utility. PCC 11.02 can be found on-line at www.piercecountywa.org/council.
Starting January 1, 2021, single-family residences pay a $125.31 annual service charge. Multi-family, mobile home parks, commercial, and other parcels pay a service charge based on the amount of impervious surface area (rooftop, paved areas, etc.) and gravel area on the parcel. Go to www.piercecountywa.org/servicecharge for the 2021 rate structure adopted by Pierce County Council.
The more impervious surface area a property has, the more stormwater runoff it will generate. This increased stormwater runoff has a greater impact on the public drainage system. Therefore, higher SWM Utility service charges are appropriate so the county can manage the quantity and quality of that excess runoff.