Stormwater management incentive program eyed in Hamilton


Published November 2, 2023 at 4:43 pm

storm drain
Photo by João Vítor Heinrichs

Hamilton has proposed a stormwater management incentive program to encourage residents to help the over-taxed city drainage system.

The city’s storm sewer system is more than 100 years old and one of the oldest in Canada. As such Hamilton has undertaken a review of the system and how to upgrade it. Since the city, like most urban areas, is full of hard tarmac and concrete, rainwater cannot soak into the ground. As a result, Hamilton needs to depend on the storm drains to prevent flooding.

However, given the network age and increasing rains thanks to climate change, the network is currently being overwhelmed. In order to fund upgrades, Hamilton will institute a storm drain tax in 2025. Previously funding for the drainage network came from the existing water rates. Hamilton will lower the existing water fees since they will no longer contribute to the drain system.

In essence, residents contribute to the system based on how much water the house uses which the city calls “not fair or equitable.” Under the new system, households will pay based on what type of property they own, whether they have a single-family detached dwelling, duplex, townhome, or multiplex.

Non-residential and large, multi-residential properties will pay based on how much of the property is covered in a hard, impermeable surface.

“The City needs to divert as much stormwater as possible to manage the pressure on the system, and it’s looking at ways to incent property owners to help with that,” Hamilton wrote. To take the burden off the system, residents who install rainwater capture systems will get credit toward the new storm drainage tax.

These methods could include, rain barrels, disconnection of downspouts, installation of a backwater valve or “other strategies to help to reduce the risk of basement flooding.” Rain gardens, bioswales, pollinator gardens or installing water-permeable surfaces would also count.

The city has scheduled four meetings for residents and businesses to discuss the changes. The first pair of virtual meetings are set for Nov. 7. The first, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. will focus on industrial, commercial, institutional and multi-residential property owners. The second, at 7 p.m., will focus on homeowners and landlords.

Then two in-person meetings are scheduled for Nov. 15 and 16. The first is at city hall from 6:30 p.m. while the second is at the Ancaster fairground at 6 p.m. the next day.

Mayor Andrea Horwath is opening for plenty of feedback saying, “How can the City make it easier for Hamiltonians to reduce the storm runoff on their properties? We’re looking for practical ideas that would incentivize residents to help us reduce costs and address the impacts of a changing climate. Please share your ideas.”


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