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Stormwater FAQs

Stormwater Management

National studies by the U.S. EPA, State, and local agencies, the U.S. Geological Survey, and universities have shown that urbanization and associated development of an area not only affects flow rates and volume of stormwater runoff but also can increase the number and amount of contaminants found in the stormwater.  Stormwater begins its role as transporter of contaminants as it flows off rooftops and across yards, driveways, streets, and parking lots on its way to a natural water course.  On its way, it can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt, sediment, animal wastes all which enter the natural water course and some of which may eventually infiltrate to ground water.  Contaminated stormwater can have adverse effects on people, plants, animals, fish, and the hydrologic environment.

  • Sediment can clog ground-water recharge areas in alluvial channels, impair the sustainability of aquatic habitats, and reduce the conveyance capability and capacity of drainage and floodwater control structures.
  • Bacteria and other pathogens can create health hazards.
  • Household chemical wastes such as pesticides, paint, solvents, used motor oil, and other automotive fluids can contribute chemicals that are toxic to land animals and aquatic life as well as degrading to ground water quality.
  • Excess nutrients can be detrimental in aquatic habitats where they can lead to algal blooms. As the algae die off, the decomposition process can have a considerable influence on dissolved oxygen levels in a water body.  In addition, elevated concentrations of nitrate in ground water used for drinking water can have adverse health impacts.
  • Polluted stormwater can affect, most noticeably, surface waters that are used as drinking water sources thereby resulting in possible human health concerns and increased drinking water treatment costs.
  • Debris of all types—plastic, rubber, metallic, and construction materials can disable animals and birds, and can become lodged at culverts and bridges thereby creating an impediment to flow, increasing water-surface elevations, and possibly increasing the risk of flooding.

A growing public awareness of and concern for controlling water pollution during the first half of the 20th century lead to the passage of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), P.L. 80-845, in 1948.  The FWPCA has been amended nine times between 1956 and 1987.  Most notably, the 1972 Amendments resulted in P.L. 92-500, commonly known as the Clean Water Act.  This Act restructured the responsibility for water pollution control and gave that responsibility to the Administrator of the U.S. EPA.  The 1977 Amendments created the basic structure, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), for regulating discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States.

The NPDES was the permit program established to set water-quality standards and to regulate point source pollutant discharge into waters of the United States.  Through provisions of the program which included establishment of water-quality criteria that point-source dischargers should not exceed and a construction grants program to help communities improve waste-water treatment plant capabilities, point-source discharge quality has improved.  However, as this improvement was taking place, the impact of stormwater runoff as a non-point source contributor to stream quality degradation became more evident. 

In 1990, the EPA promulgated rules to establish Phase I of the NPDES Stormwater Program.  The objective of the Phase I program was to implement a stormwater management program to control contaminant input to stormwater runoff in communities served by Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) and having populations of 100,000 or greater.  In December 1999, the Stormwater Phase II final rule was published in the Federal Register vol. 64, no. 235.  This rule expanded with some variation in approach the existing Phase I regulations to communities of less than 100,000 population that are located in “urbanized areas” as defined by the Bureau of Census.  Thus, the Town of Oro Valley due to its proximity to the Tucson metropolitan area is required to implement activities that will reduce the discharge of pollutants in stormwater to the “maximum extent practicable” (MEP) thereby aiding in the protection of water quality.

The Town of Oro Valley was required to submit a Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP) to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) by March 10, 2003.  This requirement was accomplished by the Stormwater Utility Commission (SWUC)—a volunteer group consisting of five Oro Valley residents.  The NPDES Phase II activity requires that small MS4s develop and implement best management practices (BMPs) and timelines for achievement of measurable goals to satisfy each of the following six minimum control measures:

a.  Public education and outreach,
b.  Public participation/involvement,
c.  Illicit discharge detection and elimination (IDDE),
d.  Construction site runoff control,
e.  Post-construction runoff control, and
f.   Pollution prevention/good housekeeping.

Throughout the permit period, March 2003 through December 2007, the permittees must evaluate the effectiveness of their chosen BMPs to determine whether or not the desired goals/objectives are being met.  All communities are required to submit an annual report to the ADEQ.  In Oro Valley, the Town Council will also receive an annual report.

Since the inception of the NPDES Phase I stormwater program in 1990, it has been a community’s responsibility to fund the program.  The requirement for community funding has been carried over to the NPDES Phase II stormwater program.  Failure of an identified Phase II community to file the required SWMP or to ignore the implementation of activities contained in the Plan would place the community in a non-compliant position.  Being in this status could lead to the issuance of fines by the ADEQ. 

The Town realized early the need to participate in the NPDES Phase II program and formed the SWUC in October 2001.  The Town has a tradition of forming and utilizing volunteer groups in various ways to help accomplish required programs.  This tradition results in a win-win situation as it gives residents an opportunity to be involved in Town activities and utilize their knowledge and skills, and it allows the Town to accomplish various programs at a minimum cost.  As an example, through the volunteer efforts of the SWUC members, the Town was able to write and submit the SWMP to ADEQ, generate a staffing and budget estimate for the SWMP, and develop a proposed fee structure that will recoup future stormwater program costs.  The work of volunteers on the SWUC resulted in an estimated savings of $50,000-$100,000 to the Town of Oro Valley.

As various elements of the SWMP are implemented by Town staff, two key components will be continued:

a.  Recognition of the importance of active involvement  of residents, organizations, and school groups in the accomplishment of SWMP objectives, and

b.  Compatibility of our new stormwater  program with existing programs and  Town regulations.  For example, grading permits, stormwater pollution prevention plans, and maintenance activities including road and right-of way upkeep will help to meet SWMP objectives.

Additionally, the upgrade or rectification of drainage/flow related problems is generally addressed through other funding sources.  However, the solutions to drainage/flow related issues will often with a minimal amount of additional effort and cost benefit the stormwater quality program.  Thus, through close coordination in the rectification of stormwater quantity and quality concerns in Oro Valley, it should be possible to maximize benefits and minimize costs.

On a routine basis, think about your actions, whether it is at home or at work, and what impact they may have on the environment and stormwater quality.  It has been shown that urbanization increases the variety and amount of contaminants carried into streams and washes.  The contaminants include:

a.  Sediment,
b.  Oil, grease, and toxic fluids from motor vehicles,
c.  Pesticides and nutrients from lawns and gardens,
d.  Viruses, bacteria, and nutrients from pet wastes and failing septic systems,
e. Trace metals and toxic organic compounds from roof shingles, motor vehicles, and improper handling and disposal of paints and household cleaning compounds, and
f.  Toxicological and physical affects of debris and waste material generated both residentially and commercially.   You can help to lessen the likelihood of contaminants entering stormwater runoff simply by thinking about and conducting your day-to-day activities in an environmentally friendly manner.  Here are a few suggestions for home and business:


a.  Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly and only in recommended amounts.  Use organic mulch or biologically safer pest control methods whenever possible.
b.  Do not over water your lawn.  Consider the use of a soaker hose in lieu of a sprinkler.
c.  Compost or mulch yard wastes.  Do not leave it in the street, sweep it into a storm drain, or dump it in a wash or stream.
d.  Cover piles of dirt or mulch being used in landscaping projects.
e.  Do car washing and engine degreasing  at a commercial car wash that treats or recycles its waste water.
f.  Repair automobile fluid leaks before they become a major problem.
g.  Dispose of used automotive fluids, batteries, and tires as well as paints and cleaning solvents at designated drop-off or recycling centers.
h.  Pick up pet wastes and dispose of properly.  Flushing pet waste is the best disposal method.
i.  Inspect your septic system every 3-4 years and pump as necessary.  Do not dispose of household chemicals or toxic wastes in sinks or toilets that drain to a septic system.
j.  Use environmentally friendly landscaping techniques.  For example, permeable pavement will allow rain to soak through thereby decreasing runoff; rain barrels can be used to collect rooftop runoff for use on gardens and shrubs; and landscaped swales and rain gardens can be designed to make use of runoff generated on a residential lot.

Business/commercial property:

a.  Sweep up litter and debris from sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots to prevent their wash off during storm events.
b.  Cover grease storage containers and dumpsters; and keep them clean to avoid leaks.
c.  Report any chemical spill to the local hazardous waste cleanup team.
d.  Divert stormwater away from any disturbed or exposed areas on a construction site.
e.  Install silt fences, vehicle tire wash/mud removal areas, containment barriers around fluid storage areas, and vegetative cover to minimize the potential for sediment and contaminant movement from construction areas.
f.  Clean gasoline and other automotive fluid spills immediately and properly dispose of cleanup materials.  Facilities should be designed for spill containment and have operational oil/water separators.

In addition to adapting an environmentally friendly approach to your daily activities, you can become involved in one of the Town of Oro Valley programs which have goals of keeping our community a clean and aesthetically desirable place to live.  These programs include the ongoing Adopt-A-Roadway program and two new efforts—the Adopt-A-Trail and Adopt-A-Wash programs.

The Town of Oro Valley has identified coordinators for the roadways, trails, and washes programs.  The contacts are as follows: 

a.  Adopt-A-Roadway:  Carmen Ryan, 229-5070;
b.  Adopt-A-Trail:  Nancy Ellis, 229-5057; and
c.  Adopt-A-Wash: Jamie Hoppe, 229-4816.

As mentioned previously, all three programs have a common goal which is to keep Oro Valley’s landscape clean and litter free and help provide an aesthetically desirable place to live.  It is important to remember that any trash or other unwanted material which is disposed of improperly along roads and trails can ultimately end up in a wash or stream. When the trash comes in contact with water in a wash, it can become a contaminant source and can affect stormwater quality and even ground-water resources. It can also cause an accumulation of debris in culverts and under bridges, thereby affecting the ability to convey flood waters.  Additionally, involvement in any of these activities creates a win-win situation.  It helps the Town accomplish program goals at a minimum cost and it provides the participants a healthy activity, i.e., fresh air and sunshine, as well as an opportunity to meet others and perhaps make new friends.

Stormwater Utility Fee

The fee will provide both visible and invisible benefits to Town of Oro Valley residents. The visible benefits will include additional street sweeping, vegetation control, culvert maintenance and minor repairs and maintenance after storms.

The less visible benefits include inspections for storm water control devices to ensure their proper operation, development of required storm water regulations and manuals, and studies and designs supporting mandated storm water activities.

In 2002, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in response to Environmental Protection Agency mandates required all municipalities of less than 100,000 people to implement programs and practices to meet various storm water quality and quantity standards. Unfortunately the Federal Government did not provide any funding to meet these standards.  This fee will address these federally directed requirements.

The Stormwater on your property taxes goes to the Pima County Regional Flood Control District and is managed and distributed by them.  These funds are used to eliminate and minimize flood and erosion hazards throughout the county and are primarily targeted to large flood control projects, for example, these funds paid for the levees along the CDO wash.

This is included in your monthly water bill if you are an Oro Valley Water customer.  If you are a Tucson or Metro Water customer, you will receive a separate quarterly bill for $13.50 sent from the Oro Valley Water Department for the Stormwater Fee.  We have contacted both the Tucson and Metro Water providers to add this fee into their monthly billing system, but they were unable to accommodate our request.

Oro Valley Water customers are billed monthly in their water bill.  Tucson and Metro Water customers receive a quarterly bill in January, April, July and October.

We are sending a quarterly bill to reduce our overhead and administrative costs as much as possible to ensure we maximize the use of the funds for the tangible benefits.

The Oro Valley Water Department has an Automated Bill Payment (ACH) program available for all Stormwater customers.  This service offers an easy way to pay your stormwater bill without the hassle of remembering to write a check. Your stormwater bill is deducted automatically each month from your checking or savings account. To enroll in the ACH program please call 520-229-4816 or 520-229-5070 and an application for this program will be mailed to you.

The Stormwater Utility is managed in the Community Development and Public Works Department.  Any billing questions are handled by Stormwater Utility personnel. Please call 520-229-4816 or 520-229-5070.