Stormwater, rain or melted snow that runs off of yards or hard surfaces, is an important part of the water cycle. It provides important water to streams and rivers during low flow times, but it can also cause damaging flooding and significant pollution impacts because of the things it carries with it like fertilizers, oils, and bacteria.
What is Stormwater?
Stormwater is exactly what it sounds like. When it rains, or when snow melts, water that is not soaked into the ground may run off lawns or pavement and go directly into a storm drain, and then straight into a nearby river or creek. Fort Wayne's Stormwater Utility is responsible for managing both stormwater quality and quantity and has been mandated by federal and state regulators to reduce the amount of pollution reaching the rivers. Pollution prevention involves a number of projects within City Utilities, including those outlined in the Long Term Control Plan for Combined Sewer Overflows, the associated Consent Decree and the Stormwater Quality Management Plan.
Who Manages the Stormwater?
Fort Wayne's Stormwater Utility has responsibility for operating, maintaining and improving an extensive system of open waterways and enclosed storm sewer lines. This system exists to collect the rainwater that runs off yards, roofs, streets and parking lots and carry it away from neighborhoods to nearby rivers. Without a stormwater collection system, every rainstorm could turn into a flood. Thanks to the stormwater system, when Fort Wayne's rivers flood it is usually caused by runoff from areas upstream, not poor drainage within the City.
The stormwater system contains more than 600 miles of sewer lines, ditches, open channel and drains. It drains more than 68 square miles and serves approximately 72,200 residential and commercial customers inside the boundaries of Fort Wayne. Portions of the system, like the brick sewer lines in the central city area, were built in the mid-to late-1800s. These aging brick sewers are one of the problems facing as we work to maintain and improve the system because they need ongoing inspection and repair.
The utility must also ensure that Fort Wayne meets state and federal requirements for improving the quality of stormwater runoff. Because most stormwater receives no treatment before it goes into a stream, lake or river, it is important that we keep as many pollutants as before it goes into a stream, lake or river, it is important that we keep as many pollutants as possible out of stormwater runoff. Efforts to address this pollution runoff are outlined in the City's Stormwater Quality Management Plan.
How is Stormwater Management Paid For?
The services of the stormwater utility are paid for by a monthly fee added to sewer and water bills. All residential and non-residential customers of Fort Wayne City Utilities pay monthly fees to support the system. Some fees are based upon the amount of impervious land (land with a hard surface that won't absorb rainwater such as driveways, rooftops, and sidewalks). The City's authority for collecting this fee is found in Chapter 53 of City Code and Indiana Code 8-1.5-5. Specific rate information are posted on the rates page.
How Are Stormwater Utility Funds Spent?
- The Stormwater Utility has a budget of approximately $10 million per year. This money is spent:
- Repairing, replacing and improving the stormwater drainage system
- Cleaning drainage inlets and catch basins
- Maintaining swales and ditches
- Ensuring compliance with the EPA's Clean Water Act
- Administering programs to provide cleaner water to the residents of Fort Wayne
- Monitoring and controlling pollution levels in stormwater that is returned to the rivers
- Implementing projects outlined in the Consent Decree
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Go here for more questions about storm drain inlets, pollution sources, or maintenance?
Ways You Can Help
Some actions can have a disproportionate or concentrated impact on stormwater quality. Knowing more about the best practices that key businesses should use, as well as the choices consumers can make, will help protect the water that reaches nearby rivers and streams through street drains.