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Storm Water Services Rates and Fees FAQ’s

1.       If I have questions about my Storm Water Services fee, who should I call?
Call Charlotte-Mecklenburg Customer Service at 311 or 704-336-7600. Reading the questions and answers below might also provide the information you need.

2.       How do I pay my Storm Water/water bill?
You can pay in person, through online banking, with an automated bank draft, by mailing a check, or even more options.  Learn more
3.       What is storm water?
Rain that is not absorbed into the ground becomes storm water. The excess water flows into storm drains, ditches and channels, which take the runoff directly into creeks. Storm water is not treated to remove pollution. Learn more. 

4.       How does storm water cause pollution and flooding?
As storm water flows across land, it picks up contaminants such as oil drippings from cars, fertilizers and pesticides from lawns, dirt particles, and bacteria from pet waste. All of that pollution is carried directly into creeks, which then flow to the lakes that supply our drinking water. Seventy percent of the pollution in our creeks and lakes is carried there by storm water runoff.
Increased storm water runoff can also cause erosion, street flooding and creek flooding. If the amount of rainfall is more than our storm drains, pipes and creek channels can handle, the excess rain can cause flooding.
 Aerial view of downtown Charlotte from Freedom Park.

5.       What does the Storm Water Services fee pay for?
The Storm Water Services fee pays for local efforts to reduce flood risks, improve drainage and reduce water pollution. Those services are not funded by property tax revenue. Those services are also not covered by the fees you pay for municipal water and sanitary sewer. Learn more.  
6.       What determines my property’s Storm Water Services fee?
These three things determine how much you pay in Storm Water fees:
a)      The amount of impervious surface on your property (which billing tier your property is in).
b)      Where you live. Storm Water rates are different in the City of Charlotte, each of the six Towns and in the unincorporated areas.
c)       The cost of managing storm water.   
7.       What’s the Tier structure?
Single-family homes in all of Charlotte-Mecklenburg are grouped into one of four billing tiers based on the amount of impervious area (hard surface) on the property. Homes with the least amount of impervious surface pay the lowest Storm Water rates while homes with the largest amount of impervious surface pay the highest Storm Water rates. Learn more about the billing tiers
8.       What are the billing tiers?
Tier I – Up to 1,999 square feet of impervious area
Tier II – 2,000 to 2,999 square feet of impervious area
Tier III – 3,000 to 4,999 square feet of impervious area
Tier IV – 5,000 or more square feet of impervious area
See the Storm Water rates for each tier. 
Remember: Impervious area is NOT the same as the heated square footage of your home. Impervious surface includes driveways, rooftops, garages, outbuildings, sheds, patios, and private sidewalks.
9.       How do I know which tier my house is in?
Use the interactive Geospatial Portal. Go to the Portal and type in your address in the upper left. Under the "Property" heading, click on "Impervious Surface". The impervious area for that address will be listed. Compare the size of your home's impervious area to the tier sizes listed in Question #8.
The size of your property’s impervious area is also listed on the back of City-County Water Services (water) bills.
10.       What is considered impervious surface?
Hard surfaces do not let rain sink into the ground. Common examples of impervious surface include rooftops on a home, garage or shed; driveways made of concrete, brick or asphalt; private sidewalks and walkways; patios made of concrete or brick; outdoor tennis or basketball courts, and private swimming pool aprons.
11.       What is not counted as impervious area?
Areas covered with grass, trees, gardens, and gravel are not counted as impervious surface. Wooden decks are also not counted as impervious as long as there is no permanent roof over the deck.
12.     Why is impervious surface used to determine a home’s Storm Water Services fee?
Rainfall runs off hard surfaces. The more hard surface that is on your property, the more storm water runoff that flows off your property into storm drainage ditches, channels and pipes.
13.     How is the size of impervious area on my parcel determined?
Aerial photos are taken during the winter and early spring when leaves have fallen off the trees. The aerial photo shows the impervious surfaces on each parcel of land. Computer software is used to draw around the edges of the hard surfaces shown on the photo to calculate the impervious square footage for each parcel. Learn more
14.     What if I disagree with the impervious square footage listed on my bill?
To request a verification of your home’s impervious area, call 311 (704-336-7600.) If you disagree with the results of the verification, an inspector can meet with your at your property to identify impervious features and validate square footage.
15.     If I disagree with the inspector’s measurement, what options do I have?
Customers who disagree with verification results can appeal to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Advisory Committee.  
16.     What kinds of property are considered single-family residential for Storm Water rates?
The four-tier residential billing structure applies to homes that are zoned, designed and built as a residence for one family, and are completely detached from other residential or commercial structures.
Commercial Storm Water rates apply to:
a)      duplexes, triplexes, apartments and other multi-family homes
b)      any structure for which a business license is on file for that address
c)       businesses or commercial enterprises
d)      public buildings
17.     How are Commercial Storm Water rates calculated?
Storm water fees for commercial customers are also based on the amount of impervious surface on the property. Commercial fees are calculated based on Equivalent Residential Units (ERUs.) The ERU in Charlotte-Mecklenburg is 2,613 square feet. The residential billing tiers do not apply to commercial Storm Water customers.
18.     Why aren’t Storm Water fees included in my property taxes?
Property taxes are based on the dollar value of your home. The dollar value is not an accurate indicator of how much storm water flows from your property into the public drainage system. With a separate Storm Water fee, those who contribute the most storm water runoff to the system pay the most.
19.     Isn’t this essentially a tax on rain water?
The Storm Water fee is a user fee—because it charges property owners for a service. That service is managing the storm water runoff coming from their property.

20.     Why does my Storm Water fee go up and down some months?
The Storm Water fee is based on a billing cycle of 30 days. Your actual monthly fee will vary slightly if the billing cycle is more or less than 30 days. Learn more.
Sampling lake water for pollutants. 21.   What services do I get from paying a Storm Water fee?
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services spends fee dollars to:

  • Protect lives and property from flooding
  • Restore stream channels and surrounding floodplains
  • Replace broken or undersized storm water pipes and culverts
  • Clear blockages from stream channels and storm drain pipes
  • Improve water quality in creeks and lakes
  • Comply with federal and state requirements for water quality
  • Fix qualifying storm water drainage problems on private property
  • Obtain state and federal grants for storm water projects
  • Integrate flood mitigation, water quality, stream restoration and greenway expansion.
Those services are not included in your property tax bill.

22.     Can I reduce my Storm Water fee?
Storm Water fee credits can be offered if the property meets specific criteria. For some types of fee credits, a Professional Engineer must certify that the property’s storm water runoff does not enter a Charlotte-Mecklenburg public drainage system or must certify that the property owner has significantly reduced runoff by installing and properly maintaining approved storm water controls. Learn more
23.     What are the Major System and Minor System?
The City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and six incorporated Towns have a single Storm Water utility. Specific responsibilities of managing storm water have been divided up based on “Major” and “Minor” storm water systems. This avoids duplication of services.
When you pay your Storm Water fee, a specified amount goes to Mecklenburg County for the Major System and a specified amount goes to your City or Town for the Minor System.
The Major System is all named creeks and regulated floodplains. The Major System fee pays for: 
  • Maintaining and improving “named” creeks
  • Mapping flood risks and regulating floodplain development countywide
  • Monitoring and improving water quality in creeks and lakes.

Mecklenburg County administers the Major System storm water programs, even those inside City and Town limits. All Storm Water customers throughout Mecklenburg County pay the Major System fee.
The Minor System fee provides funds for the City of Charlotte, the six Towns, and unincorporated Mecklenburg County to address drainage improvement and water quality needs in their specific jurisdictions. The Minor System is defined as:

  • tributaries
  • pipes
  • storm drain catch basins or grates
  • culverts

on public or private property and in the street right of way draining less than one square mile of land.
One way to think of it is like the body’s circulatory system. The Major System is like the large arteries and veins in our bodies. The Minor System is like the smaller blood vessels that carry blood to the larger arteries. Both the tiny blood vessels and large arteries are essential to the body. Both the Minor System and the Major System are essential to a comprehensive storm drain system that is clean and safe.

24.   What if I don’t pay my Storm Water fee?
Customers who don’t pay their Storm Water Services fee risk having their water service turned off. Any payment on a City-County Water Services (water) bill is first applied to the Storm Water fee, then to water and sanitary sewer charges. If you do not have CMUD water or sewer service (such as customers with wells or private septic systems) and do not pay your Storm Water fee, your unpaid account will be turned over to a collection agency.
Storm Water Catch Basin 
25.    Is Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services part of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department?
No, they are separate agencies with separate budgets. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department (CMUD) fees are shown as separate line items on a single bill to make it easier for customers and the local governments. CMUD maintains the customer database and CMUD handles the billing and collection of fees for Storm Water Services customers as well as the billing and collection for municipal water and sewer customers. Learn more about the difference between SWS and CMUD.