Credit: Photo: Neal Shapiro, City of Santa Monica, Calif.

Catch-basin inserts are used in Santa Monica, Calif., to remove trash and debris from stormwater. This and other best management practices are employed to meet federal stormwater requirements.

Credit: Photo: Neal Shapiro, City of Santa Monica, Calif.

Santa Monica's Virginia Avenue Park parking lot was remodeled using block pavers with small gravel in the gaps in the parking stalls. This made the pavement more pervious and helped absorb stormwater runoff.

Working to achieve long-term goals is not unique to Athens-Clarke County.

“Successful programs are faithful to defined levels of service goals, and to stay committed to upgrade and expand future facilities to achieve that level of service,” says Rick Giardina, vice president with Malcolm Pirnie/Red Oak Consulting. Many municipalities use consultants to help set and initially achieve these goals, but it's up to the municipality to keep meeting high standards—usually accomplished by hiring a lead stormwater person or by starting an entire department.

According to a survey done by engineering firm Black & Veatch, Overland Park, Kan., most municipalities look at a 10-year return period when designing a stormwater-management system. For example, stormwater utilities indicated that 39% of residential, 35% of commercial, and 34% of major street structures fall into this 10-year timeline.

Anticipating problems downstream is another key to long-term success.

Athens-Clarke County's billing system had problems at the initiation of the program, delaying the billing by nine months. If he could do it differently, Peek says he would have anticipated billing issues sooner. “It was a real headache to get the billing system to meet our needs,” he says.

The biggest potential stumbling block is explaining and then implementing rate increases.

“Unless you can increase rates, your program is going to get smaller,” says Sorensen. AMEC has indexed the stormwater rate to inflation. For every five-year NPDES permit, costs are likely to increase by up to 10%.

Many municipalities' budgets have not kept up with the fast-paced price increases in the construction industry as a whole. This lack of funding for future improvements could eventually hurt new utilities, costing them even more if non-compliance with EPA standards ever becomes an issue.