News: Pennsylvania Stormwater Can Be Managed By Municipal Authorities

Combined sewage overflows (CSO) in West Haven, CT | © Christopher Zurcher

Combined sewage overflows (CSO) in West Haven, CT | © Christopher Zurcher

Pennsylvania municipalities will have a new tool in their stormwater management toolbox—one that significantly hinges regulatory hammers, best management practice levers and funding drivers together— the legal flexibility to form authorities, sometimes referred to as utilities, to plan and manage stormwater. Governor Corbett has just signed legislation that has been shaped and championed for years by various legislators, conservation groups and municipalities.

Stormwater runoff is one of Pennsylvania’s largest sources of water pollution, contributes significantly to flooding and causes excessive erosion of streams. Effective management of stormwater can reduce the need for expensive treatment of drinking water, minimize costly flood damage, stabilize stream banks to provide for healthy river habitats and provide a multitude of external benefits such as increased property values and livable communities.

Managing stormwater has long been a challenge in Pennsylvania where responsibility for land use, and thus the control of storm runoff from land, is managed by more than 2,500 municipalities. The state claims nearly one sixth of all the nation’s small urban municipalities eligible to hold permits to manage stormwater systems.

The flexibility to create authorities will help these municipalities work collaboratively with neighboring municipalities of the same watershed and to apply innovative practices such as green infrastructure and financing strategies including fee structures based on stormwater contributions.