What is stormwater runoff?

Stormwater runoff, which occurs when it rains, is increasingly affecting many communities around our state and nation. The City of Gainesville faces stormwater challenges each year to address growth, keep up with repairs, combat flooding, protect Lake Lanier and to respond to ever-changing environmental regulations on stormwater.

Beginning in 1999, the City has undertaken steps to evaluate its current stormwater program and forecast future program needs and priorities. A widely representative Citizens Stormwater Advisory Group (SWAG), appointed by the City Council, guided this effort.

After a series of meetings to discuss problems and solutions, the Citizens Group made recommendations to the Council of their vision of how the City can address stormwater issues in the coming years.


The SWAG found the following issues were in need of immediate attention:

•Age and a lack of attention to the City’s system of pipes and ditches leads to flooding and water quality problems in some areas. Much of the City system is over 60 years old.

• Maintenance and construction of stormwater pipes, ditches and other infrastructure competes with other City funding priorities.

• Maintenance is difficult because the City lacks accurate maps and staff to correct the problems.

• The City needs to improve its program to address citizen complaints of flooding and other stormwater issues.

• Recreation, tourism, and quality of life benefits provided by Lake Lanier require the City to be vigilant of polluted water and sediment-laden runoff to the Lake.

The Gainesville City Council reviewed the Citizens’ recommendations and is now in the process of implementing a program to address each of the SWAG identified problems. The Citizens Advisory group also concluded that a service fee was the best option to finance these stormwater priorities.


The SWAG and City Council agreed that a sensible and reasonable approach had to be used. Above all, it had to be purposeful and equitable. A service fee was determined to be the best way to provide dedicated funding to pay for these needs.

In hundreds of cities in the U.S., a service fee has been shown to be the fairest way to fund a Stormwater Program. This means that those who put more runoff into City pipes and ditches should pay more. Each property pays a fee relative to their “impact” or demand on the public drainage system. This amount is calculated by measuring the surface on each property that is impervious or cannot soak up rainwater. Impervious surfaces include areas such as rooftops, driveways, parking lots, and patios.


The monthly cost for a typical or average smaller home will be about $2.89; larger homes will pay about $5.55 per month. Businesses and commercial properties will pay based on a formula calculated by the amount of impervious surface on each parcel relative to the impervious surface on a parcel occupied by an average home.

In Gainesville, a typical small home has approximately 2,000 square feet of impervious surface. This is called an Equivalent Residential Unit or ERU. As a business or other non-residential property, the total impervious surface is a fraction or multiple of an ERU.


Simply put, the service fee will pay for the City’s Stormwater Management Program. The Citizen Group learned that the City has a maintenance backlog of more than $3 million dollars in part due to a system that is typically more than half a century old. The SWAG also recommended that the City address more than $15 million in Capital Projects that have gone without funding for the past several years.


All users can reduce their stormwater impact by constructing controls such as detention ponds or vaults to control runoff from entering the public drainage system. Service fees may be reduced up to 30% for privately constructed and maintained stormwater management facilities that meet the City’s current standards for new construction. Credits would increase up to 50% for providing additional detention and water quality improvements.


Learn more by visiting the City’s website, www.gainesville.org, under Stormwater Update, attend one of the upcoming community meetings or contact: Tim Merritt, Assistant City Manager, 770-535-6865 or Chuck Langley, Director of Public Works, 770-535-6882.

Related Information http://www.gainesville.org