Stormwater Management

About the proposed stormwater charge – details and information

Learn more about the proposed stormwater charge:

What is stormwater?

Stormwater is rain and melted snow.

Why is stormwater an issue?

When not absorbed into the ground, it runs off properties onto streets, down storm drains and through a complex network of pipes that carry it into local waterways or, in some cases, wastewater treatment facilities. Generally, the more hard surfaces a property has the more stormwater it adds to the stormwater system.

What is the challenge?

An increase in extreme storms, combined with more hard surfaces in the city is resulting in more water making its way into the stormwater system. Too much water can overwhelm the system leading to flooded basements and poor water quality in local waterways, including Lake Ontario.

What is a stormwater charge? 

  • It is a charge: 
    • based on impact to the stormwater system
    • dedicated to paying for stormwater management

What is the proposal? How would the stormwater charge change water bills?

Currently stormwater management is being paid for from the water rate, which means the amount homeowners pay for stormwater management is based on how much water they use.

The proposal is to remove the portion homeowners currently pay for stormwater management (currently embedded in the water rate), and show it as a separate charge on the water bill. 

The water rate would decrease by approximately 20% and the stormwater charge would be added. The amount paid for stormwater would be based on property size and the average amount of hard space on properties of a similar size.

Some bills would go up and some bills would go down.

The proposed model for the charge:

  • Divides properties into four categories
    • Residential
    • Apartment & Condo Buildings
    • Industrial, Commercial & Institutional
    • Large Properties
    • Has various tiers, based on property size, within each category
      • Exception: Large Properties will be examined individually
    • Calculates the average amount of hard surface for each tier

See examples of how the
proposed stormwater charge could impact water bills.

See full list of list of proposed stormwater charges (categories and tiers)

Toronto's water rate is already one of the lower rates in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Why is a stormwater charge being considered?

There is a growing need for new and upgraded stormwater infrastructure. A stormwater charge is:

  • Fairer
    • Based on surface stormwater runoff rather than water consumption
    • The water rates would decrease if the stormwater charge was implemented
  • Transparent
    • Transparency for cost of services provided and charges paid
  • Dedicated
    • Provides dedicated funding (the stormwater charge) for a dedicated service (stormwater management)

How is stormwater managed?

Making infrastructure improvements is necessary to manage the impacts of stormwater. To help manage stormwater, the City is building new infrastructure and looking at new and innovative ways to manage stormwater, including: 

  • The Wet Weather Flow Master Plan (WWFMP) is a 25-year plan to reduce stormwater and protect the environment for healthy streams, rivers and Lake Ontario
    • Significant large scale projects in the WWFMP:
  • Other stormwater management projects include installing tanks and tunnels to intercept stormwater flows, new storm sewers and stormwater ponds and overhauling some sewer infrastructure that is more than 100 years old.  

How is property size used to calculate the stormwater charge?

Aerial photography was used to determine the amount of hard surface for each property across the City of Toronto. This data was used to determine the average hard surface area for each tier and to then calculate the flat stormwater charges.

See also: What is a stormwater charge?

If the proposed changes to my water bill are to be based on how much water I use and the size of my property, where can I get that information?

To better understand your current water usage, review your City of Toronto Utility Bill or look-up your information online at MyWaterToronto.   

The size – or area – of your property is the width multiplied by the length.  You can get an approximation of the area of your property using this mapping tool

What is considered a "hard surface"?

Hard surfaces are those that will generally result in a higher amount of runoff compared to soft surfaces. Hard surfaces include buildings, homes, paved areas, driveways, walkways, etc. Soft areas include grassed surfaces, soil, treed areas, etc.

Why propose flat rates based on property size? My neighbour has the same size property, but many more hard surfaces.

City staff are proposing several tiers to allow for an equitable charge for all property owners. While there are some differences among individual properties, the flat stormwater charges are representative of the stormwater services being delivered to each property category and tier. Flat tiers for most or all properties are how many other municipalities, including Mississauga, have structured their stormwater charges.

Administering a program with individualized charges for all properties would be extremely expensive and is therefore not being recommended. 

Toronto's water rate is already one of the lower rates in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Do the application fees and annual licensing fees for front pad parking go towards stormwater management? Why not?

No, the application fees and annual licensing fees for front pad parking go the City's Transportation Services department. The application fees cover the cost of processing the applications and the annual licensing fees are for the rental of the public right-of-way space. Funds generated are used to pay for a number of services, including: street cleaning, catch basin cleaning, general road maintenance and many others. Stormwater management is currently fully funded by the water rate.

Why lower the water rate? Doesn't that reward those who do not conserve?

The idea of a stormwater charge is that it is a dedicated charge for a dedicated service. Currently, stormwater management is paid for out of the water rate -- that is, how much a customer pays for stormwater management is based on how much water that customer uses.  But the amount of stormwater runoff  a property creates has nothing to do with how much water is used. A stormwater charge is a more transparent model for paying for stormwater management.

What other municipalities have a stormwater charge?

  • Mississauga, ON
  • Richmond Hill, ON
  • Kitchener, ON
  • Waterloo, ON
  • London, ON
  • St. Thomas, ON
  • Regina, SK
  • Saskatoon, SK
  • Calgary, AB
  • Edmonton, AB
  • Victoria, BC

Plus hundreds of others across North America.

How much extra money would the stormwater charge generate for the City?

For the first eight years the stormwater charge would be revenue neutral – meaning it would not generate any additional funds over and above what the water rate would have if the stormwater charge had not been introduced. However, each year the stormwater charge will be submitted along with the proposed water rate for Toronto City Council to consider as part of the budget process. This is an annual process in which the public are encouraged to participate. Any funds generated by the stormwater charge, will be spent on stormwater management. Any increases to the charge will be tied to required funding for stormwater management.

When is City Council making a decision?

Toronto City Council will be considering the stormwater charge in the spring of 2017. For more information on Council's direction and previous staff reports see the decision history.

How can I provide feedback?

Toronto City Council will be reviewing this issue in the spring of 2017. 

City Council and Committee Meetings: Get information on Toronto City Council and Committee meetings, agendas and minutes. Access meeting schedules, review agendas, and get information on how to have your say.  

When would the stormwater charge start?

It will ultimately be up to Toronto City Council to decide. City staff are recommending it start March 1, 2019.