What’s the rundown on stormwater runoff?

Stormwater naturally soaks into the ground to be absorbed by vegetation, replenish aquifers, or slowly find its way into our rivers and lakes.  When this natural process is disrupted, the stormwater runoff increases the burden on the city’s stormwater management system.  Stormwater runoff is what we call rain and melted snow that falls on, and then runs off of, impervious surfaces such as roofing and pavement.  Stormwater not only increases the potential for flooding, but also washes away environmentally harmful substances such as pesticides, industrial toxins and animal waste into our waterways and, for Hamilton, our harbour.  Limiting the amount of stormwater runoff we face is an important part of preserving the health of our local environment and water table, as well as reducing flood risks for local homeowners and businesses.  

 For many communities and areas in Canada, flooding represents the first tangible challenge presented by global warming, and Hamilton is no exception. Stormwater management costs in Hamilton have doubled in less than ten years, and as extreme rainfall events become more common the limitations of our current stormwater system’s ability to adapt become more obvious.  This is why Environment Hamilton is joining city staff in calling for a new stormwater management funding system that addresses this problem head on, as well as creating new opportunities for our city to increase resiliency in the face of climate change.

Why does Hamilton need a new fee system for stormwater management?

Hamilton’s stormwater management system is currently paid primarily through water bill rates.  As stormwater costs rise, conservation efforts have reduced the amount of money available to this purpose.  Large impervious areas like commercial parking lots contribute the most to stormwater runoff, without contributing to the costs of dealing with it, while nearby households that face greater flooding risks are left to foot the bill.  

Based on successes in other Ontario municipalities including Kitchener, Ottawa, London and Mississauga, Hamilton city staff have proposed looking at a new funding system to create a reliable, direct, and transparent funding mechanism for stormwater management.  This would increase transparency, so that citizens can see where our money is going, create more stability, so that the city can plan for the future, and create a mechanism to encourage property owners to make improvements like rain gardens to reduce our stormwater burden.  Environment Hamilton is calling on Hamilton City Council to direct staff to investigate implementing a new fair fee for our stormwater management system that takes into account the current and future needs of our city. In building a more resilient city, incentives should be provided for property owners to decrease their contribution to the strain on the system - and property owners that contribute the most should pay the most.

What you can do

We have already gathered hundreds of signatures on our letter to City Council asking for them to implement a fair fee structure for stormwater. You can sign the electronic version!