Stormwater Utility and Management

Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4)

Stormwater from our community is transferred directly from our inlets and ditches to our lakes, streams, and rivers. Stormwater effectively accumulates and transfers pollutants. Most of these pollutants are efficiently stopped by following preventive measures and avoiding these sources of stormwater pollution:

  • Changing motor oil on impervious driveways
  • Improperly disposing leftover paint and household chemicals and lawn chemicals
  • Leaking trash containers
  • Littering
  • Operating vehicles that leak fluids
  • Pet waste
  • Washing cars on pavement

Citizen cooperation is necessary to ensure that the City of Columbus is doing its part to make our nation a beautiful and safe place for future generations.

Stormwater Utility

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) requires the City of Columbus to operate and maintain a stormwater drainage system and management program to meet the requirements of the small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (sMS4) permit. The EPA requires the program protect the general health and welfare of the public by improving storm water quality into receiving waters of the State.

In order to abide by the EPA mandate, the City Council created the Stormwater Utility in Ordinance 18-30. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Nebraska Environmental Protection Act, and NDEQ Rules and Regulations required the issuance of the General National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Number NER310000 authorizing and governing discharges of pollutants to waters of the State.

The City Council approved the Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) to abide by the NPDES permit and the NDEQ has approved the SWMP.

Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP)

The SWMP has six Minimum Control Measures (MCMs) which must be followed to be in accordance with the NPDES permit. They are:

  • Education and Outreach
  • Public Involvement and Participation
  • Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination Enforcement response Plan
  • Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control
  • Post Construction Stormwater Management
  • Pollution Prevention Good Housekeeping

The SWMP budget consists of staff hours and expenses for all six MCMs including all required field work, materials, advertising, education, mapping, plan review, inspections, street cleaning activities, cleaning of a portion of the storm sewer mains, and related work and services.

Stormwater Utility Fee

The Stormwater Utility program, in order to meet the NPDES permit requirements, has and continues to incur costs to operate and maintain the SWMP. The SWMP establishes a budget meet the six Minimum Control Measures. The City Council annually approves the Fee Schedule which includes a monthly Stormwater Utility Fee (SUF) on the monthly water/sewer bill.

The SWMP is implemented community wide as everyone benefits from the program. Properties have been placed into a residential group or a commercial group which includes industrial properties. The stormwater utility study evaluated equitable methods to sort and organize parcels within the two groups. The funding structure distributes the stormwater equally between the four tiers of each group. A proportion of properties are placed in each tier and share the tiered cost between them. Using this approach, parcels with greatest potential for impervious surface area pay a higher stormwater utility fee than parcels with less potential impervious surface area. There a four tiers in each the residential and commercial/industrial and are as follows:

Tier No.Parcel Max Impervious Surface Area(sq. ft.) Rate
Residential zoning (AG, RR, R-1, R-2, R-3, and RMH)
1between 0.0 and 4,000$3.00
2between 4,001 and 6,000$3.25
3between 6,001 and 50,000$3.50
4greater than 50,000$6.00
Commercial zoning (O, LC, UC, B-1, and B-2) and Industrial zoning (ML/C-1 and MH)
1between 0 and 36,000$3.00
2between 36,001 and 195,000$4.75
3between 195,001 and 1,450,000$9.00
4greater than 1,450,000$11.00

Stormwater Utility Q&A

  1. What is stormwater?
    Any surface flow, runoff, and drainage consisting entirely of water from any form of natural precipitation, and resulting from such precipitation. The runoff of excess stormwater increases with increased paving, roof tops, and urbanization.
  2. How is the stormwater utility fee calculated on my water/sewer bill?
    The fee is a tiered system, meaning the larger the property size and based on maximum impervious area of the zoning type The larger the maximum impervious area (more paving and roof size allowed) the larger the fee. There are four residential fees and four commercial/industrial fees. The commercial/industrial fees are larger than the residential fees.
  3. Why is the City starting to charge this fee now?
    The State has not reauthorized the Storm Water Grant which used for this purpose. The grant did not meet the budget funding requirements and the addition funding was from the General Fund. The Stormwater Utility fee is dedicated to be used for the SWMP which greatly reduces or removes the additional funding needed from the General Fund and/or Sales Tax.
  4. What will the stormwater utility fee be used for?
    Funds are obligated to operate and maintain the Storm Water Management Program and related NPDES permit requirements.
  5. What are Waters of the State?Any and all surface and subsurface waters that are contained in or flow in or through the State of Nebraska. The definition includes all watercourses, even if they are usually dry.
  6. What is stormwater pollution and pollutants?
    The presence in waters of the State of any substances, contaminants, pollutants, or manmade or man-induced impairment of waters or alteration of the chemical, physical, biological, or radiological integrity of water in quantities or at levels which are or may be potentially harmful or injurious to human health or welfare, animal or plant life, or property or which unreasonably interfere with the enjoyment of life or property, including outdoor recreation unless authorized by applicable law.

    Anything which causes or contributes to pollution. Pollutants may include, but are not limited to: paints, varnishes, and solvents; oil and other automotive fluids; non-hazardous liquid and solid wastes and yard wastes; refuse, rubbish, garbage, litter, or other discarded or abandoned objects, ordinances, and accumulations, so that same may cause or contribute to pollution; floatables; pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers; hazardous substances and wastes; sewage, fecal coli form and pathogens; dissolved and particulate metals; animal wastes; wastes and residues that result from constructing a building or structure; wastes and residues that result from mobile washing operations; and noxious or offensive matter of any kind.
  7. Who do I contact for stormwater management plan questions, comments, or concerns?
    The City main contact is the Engineering Department Project Manager and contact information is as follows:

    Dave Boswell, Engineering Project Manager
    Engineering Department Phone Number: 402-562-4236
    Engineering Project Manager Direct Phone Number: 402-562-4237

To Report a Concern

Complete the Stormwater/Drainage Concern online form.

Columbus Storm Sewer Map

View the Storm Sewer Map (PDF).

View the Storm Water Discharge Map (PDF).

Runoff Pollution

The following sites provide information about runoff pollution sources and the necessary steps needed to avoid the spilling of these pollutants into our streams and rivers:

Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy logo