We are committed to keeping our rates affordable and providing ways for our customers to lower their utility bills. Explore our Stormwater Charge Lookup website to learn about programs to manage stormwater runoff and ways to lower your stormwater charge.
Water and sewer systems are critical to public health. One of the SFPUC’s priorities is to protect public health and the environment. We are committed to providing customers with a safe, reliable, and affordable sewer system that helps keep pollutants out of our beautiful bay and ocean. Most of San Francisco is served by a combined sewer system, where stormwater runoff, along with residential and commercial sewage, is treated prior to being released to San Francisco Bay or the Pacific Ocean.
Recent atmospheric rivers are giving us a hint of what climate change may bring in cities across the country. Upgrading San Francisco’s combined sewer system is more important than ever as we work together as a city to provide improved stormwater management that protects our surroundings.
Restructuring the Sewer Portion of Your Bill: Stormwater Charge
To continue delivering the services that San Franciscans depend on, the SFPUC has updated water and sewer rates, as well as the way sewer rates are calculated. The SFPUC Commission approved these changes on May 23, 2023, and they will take effect July 1, 2023.
The new rate structure splits the sewer portion of the bill into two parts: a wastewater charge and a stormwater charge. This new structure will not change the total amount of revenue collected by the SFPUC. It is simply a more scientific and equitable way of allocating the costs of collecting and treating stormwater among ratepayers. This new structure will be gradually phased in over seven years.
What is Stormwater Runoff?
Stormwater runoff is rain that flows off sidewalks, rooftops, parking lots, and driveways, while collecting pollutants along the way.
Stormwater management is a critical municipal responsibility with a direct impact on public health and safety, environmental habitat, and future development. Our combined sewer system does a good job collecting and treating both stormwater and wastewater. The stormwater charge will cover the cost of stormwater-specific infrastructure and the stormwater portion of the combined sewer system.
New Stormwater Charge Structure
The new structure splits the sewer portion of your bill into two parts so that each individual customer pays based on 1) their wastewater discharge, and 2) their property’s stormwater runoff.
PREVIOUS - Based on one general measurement: Sewer Flow (wastewater and stormwater charges combined)
NEW - Based on two more specific measurements:
- Wastewater Flow
- Stormwater Runoff
The stormwater charge is calculated based on property size and the area of paved or impermeable surfaces that are unable to absorb excess rain. This is a more accurate method of calculating each customer’s contributions to the combined sewer system and allows you to take charge of your bill by implementing sustainable stormwater practices that divert stormwater from the sewer system, such as permeable pavement, living roofs, and rainwater harvesting.
Customers will fall into one of two categories for the stormwater charge:
- Simplified residential rate: a three-tiered structure for residential customers, based on the total assessor’s parcel size, with flat rates for each. Smaller parcels are charged a lower rate, with rates gradually increasing for larger parcels.
- Standard rate: commercial, institutional, industrial, mixed-use land use, and large multi-family, residential parcels (over 6,000 square feet or with more than six dwelling units) would be charged based on the total permeable and impermeable surface areas of a specific parcel.
Details on the simplified residential rates and standard rates can be found on our Prop 218 page.
Permeable vs. Impermeable Surfaces
Permeable surfaces, like planters and lawns, can absorb some stormwater when it rains. Impermeable surfaces, like driveways and roofs, direct more water to — and impose more costs on — the sewer system.
Why Did the Structure of the Sewer Portion of Your Bills Change?
The change is more equitable for our customers because it ensures that each customer pays their fair share for the combined sewer system.
The wastewater portion of your bill is now based on the estimated volume of wastewater discharged. The stormwater charge is based on the estimated amount of stormwater that flows off each property, including the property's area and surface types. This updated methodology is a standard practice among many utilities nationwide.
What Are the Changes to My Future Bills?
The new rate structure is a reallocation of an existing charge and not a new fee. The stormwater charge will increase sewer bills for some customers and decrease them for others, depending on the size and characteristics of a property. The amount of permeable or impermeable surface on each property is a key factor: properties with a large area of impermeable surface are more likely to see an increase in their sewer bill. To minimize the immediate impact on our customers’ bills, the stormwater charge will be phased in over a period of seven years.
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How to Reduce Your Utility Bill
As part of the new rates package, the SFPUC is also implementing a stormwater credit. Customers who capture stormwater on their property using green infrastructure to help improve the performance of the sewer system can apply for this credit. Customers that have green infrastructure on their property will be eligible to apply for a monthly credit on their stormwater charge. We will calculate credits based on the area of a property that drains to green infrastructure when it rains. Larger green infrastructure projects that capture more stormwater over a larger area would receive larger credits. You may apply for a stormwater credit in the Stormwater Charge Lookup website.
The SFPUC offers various grants to provide funding to our customers to help build green infrastructure on their properties. You can learn more at https://sfpuc.org/programs/grants:
- Green Infrastructure Grant Program: Large public and private properties may be eligible for the SFPUC’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program. The program funds the design and construction of green stormwater infrastructure (like rain gardens, permeable pavement, and rainwater harvesting systems), to help reduce stormwater runoff and lower the stormwater portion of your bill. Projects can receive grants of up to $2 million.
- Green Infrastructure for Homes: San Francisco homeowners may be eligible for a limited pilot program to receive grant funding to install stormwater management features, such as rain gardens, permeable pavement, and cisterns.
Other Opportunities for Bill Savings
Check out the SFPUC’s programs, rebates and incentives to find out resources to help reduce your water and sewer bills.