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New reports on stormwater fees and soil health in Ontario


Speaking at an environmental and green infrastructure event on November 15, 2016, Dianne Saxe, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), released a technical paper: Urban Stormwater Fees: How to Pay for What We Need. According to ECO, Ontario’s municipalities are facing a $6.8 billion deficit to fix existing stormwater infrastructure and meet future growth. Larger water flows and storm events, increased pollution and more impervious areas means this financial gap may widen.

Worryingly, only 35% of municipalities surveyed by ECO currently recover the full costs of managing stormwater. The Urban Stormwater Fees report calls on Ontario to require municipalities to recover the full costs of managing stormwater. One of the methods advocated in the report is stormwater fees, which are specifically imposed on property owners. Twenty-one Canadian municipalities, eight of them in Ontario, use separate stormwater fees, and more that 1,600 municipalities and utilities in the U.S. do the same.

The report outlines options that Ontario municipalities can use to calculate fees, including:

  • Flat fee or tiered flat fee: a set charge that does not vary based on use or size of the land, or a series of set charges for different categories of land (e.g., residential and commercial);
  • Equivalent residential unit and single-family unit: calculated through a statistical sampling of measured impervious areas to determine the average equivalent residential unit, which would be used as a base billing unit;
  • Impervious area: Based on the total amount of impervious area on a property.

By establishing a well designed stormwater fee, ECO says that developers and property owners will have an economic incentive to reduce runoff from their property.

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The report Urban Stormwater Fees: How to Pay for What We Need can be downloaded here.

Diane Saxe also released a technical paper, titled Putting Soil Health First: A Climate-Smart Idea for Ontario. This report calls on the provincial government to address declining soil quality in Ontario. According to the report, agricultural soils have suffered serious losses of organic matter in the last 30 years, reducing soil’s ability to hold water and nutrients. This causes soils to dry out and erode faster, and means farmers must use more pesticides and fertilizers. The report can be downloaded here.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is an independent office of the Legislature who reports on the government’s progress on climate change, energy and other environmental issues.

For more information, visit: www.eco.on.ca

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