Toronto pauses stormwater charge consultations

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Aerial image showing hard surfaces in Toronto. Photo Credit: City of Toronto

The City of Toronto has paused its three stormwater charge public consultation sessions set for April, following the mayor’s instructions to align its potential implementation with Toronto’s broader climate resilience strategy. 

 Mayor Olivia Chow told local media she was caught off guard by the stormwater charge consultations when she began fielding public complaints about it.  

The charge, or tax, was intended to begin in 2027 to address the amount of impermeable hard surface on a property, such as roofs, asphalt driveways, parking areas, and concrete landscaping. The basis for the charge addresses the fact that the more hard surface area a property has, the more runoff  it contributes to the stormwater system.  

City staff have already completed a geospatial analysis of hard and soft surface areas across Toronto, using aerial photography.  

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Toronto has forecasted stormwater management expenditures for 2027 to be about $385 million. The proposed charge would fund the infrastructure to manage it.  

The stormwater charge is calculated  by taking Toronto’s total stormwater management expenditures ($385 million) and dividing it by the city’s total impermeable surface area (22,857 hectares), which equals $1.68 per square metre of hard surface area. 

Larger properties would likely see the largest jump in annual water costs if the stormwater charge is implemented. City officials estimate that properties larger than one hectare could face about a 10% annual increase in contributing to stormwater infrastructure costs. Large properties represent approximately 1% of properties in Toronto, but account for 37% of the city’s total hard surface area. The city is also consulting on a potential stormwater charge credits program for large properties that implement long-term stormwater management solutions. 

Several municipalities across North America have already implemented a stormwater charge, such as the Ontario communities of Mississauga, Brampton, and Newmarket. Toronto itself has looked at the proposition for years, going back to about 2012.   

“Costs for stormwater management would be removed from the water rate and the stormwater charge would appear as a separate line on the utility bill as a fixed charge,” states the City of Toronto’s stormwater consultation preview document. 

Properties would be charged based on property type and size, and those without a water account would receive a stormwater charge-only bill, city officials noted.  

 Chow also told local media that before a stormwater charge comes to council, she would prefer to help homeowners figure out how to make green improvements to their properties and help rain to drain and infiltrate the ground more efficiently. 

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