Climate Resilience Design and Engineering

The State of Stormwater Management

Stormwater Management Operations and Maintenance (O&M)

The goal of stormwater management is to control the quantity and quality of runoff from rain and melting snow as it flows across the landscape and drains into nearby waterways, mitigating flooding and erosion, as well as reducing pollution picked up by runoff. This involves controlling the volume, pathway, and speed of runoff, as well as its quality. There are many techniques for managing stormwater, and O&M activities will depend on the techniques used.

O&M services for stormwater systems are activities performed to ensure the stormwater infrastructure systems achieve their intended stormwater management functions effectively, by keeping the stormwater facilities (e.g., pipes, catch basins, etc.) operating as designed. Generally, stormwater O&M activities include inspections, cleaning out sediment, leaves and debris, structural stabilization, repair and other tasks to ensure stormwater systems continue to function properly, to produce expected water quality and environmental benefits, and protect public health and safety. This range of activities are often grouped into a programmatic approach known as asset management.

Stormwater Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Services in NJ

The organizational and funding structures used to provide stormwater O&M services throughout NJ vary, depending on the geography of the service area, the severity of stormwater issues, and the potential sources of funding. As a result, a range of municipal and county departments and utilities provide stormwater O&M services in NJ.

Typically, municipal and city public works departments, local public or private utilities, and local and regional agencies and authorities have provided O&M services in NJ. We characterize these departments and agencies as jurisdiction-based entities. In terms of the staff roles and titles, stormwater O&M services are usually provided by municipal, county and consulting engineers, public works managers and directors, streets department superintendents, stormwater coordinators, planners, finance directors, attorneys, parks and recreation personnel and public utilities/public works staff. However, in NJ, stormwater O&M services are provided by varying agencies, departments, and staff because stormwater maintenance is often folded into whatever group maintains the streets that are drained by stormwater systems.

A new option for providing stormwater O&M services has recently been created in NJ. The Clean Stormwater and Flood Reduction Act, signed by the Governor in March 2019, establishes a legislative basis to enable stormwater fee collection by towns and counties that wish to pursue the creation of a stormwater utility to provide expanded or improved stormwater services.

Additional Information

Green Stormwater Management

Green infrastructure refers to methods of stormwater management that reduce wet weather/stormwater volume, flow, or changes the characteristics of the flow into combined or separate sanitary or storm sewers, or surface waters, by allowing the stormwater to infiltrate, to be treated by vegetation or by soils; or to be stored for reuse. This approach seeks to manage stormwater runoff close to where rain falls, through infiltration and storage for reuse, principally using natural features.

Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and other elements and practices to mimic natural landscapes where water is absorbed and filtered by soil and plants. With green infrastructure, infiltration systems and natural areas help to reduce erosion and can facilitate cleaner stormwater discharges to streams, by naturally filtering pollutant concentrations and loads. Best practices for stormwater management increasingly involve more intensive implementation of green stormwater infrastructure, because of the multiple benefits and onsite control of stormwater runoff.

Green infrastructure practices include, but are not limited to, pervious paving, bioretention basins, vegetated swales, and cisterns. The use of green infrastructure encourages the idea that stormwater is a resource that can be reused, instead of being treated as a nuisance that needs to be removed as quickly as possible. Stormwater management operations and maintenance (O&M) services for green infrastructure systems calls for a wider array of maintenance actions and procedures, due to the need to maintain natural living vegetative systems.

Additional Information

Future in NJ for stormwater operations and maintenance (O&M) services

NJ towns are increasingly recognizing the need to meet the objectives of the federal Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) and combined sewer overflow (CSO) requirements under the Clean Water Act, which call for improving the quality of stormwater runoff. As a result of major weather events in NJ, such as Superstorm Sandy, there is rising interest in implementing more resilient stormwater management methods to control flooding, which has resulted in increased interest by the public in improved and expanded stormwater management.

Implementation of more proactive stormwater O&M actions and green stormwater infrastructure approaches (and the new O&M techniques required for green stormwater management systems) has created interest in new organizational and management approaches to improving stormwater operations and management. Such approaches involve increased sharing of municipal functions related to stormwater maintenance, and consideration of increasingly intermunicipal and regional entities with specific stormwater maintenance expertise to provide stormwater services.

Learn about options to enhance stormwater system O&M services

Shared Services Agreement in NJ

Greater sharing of stormwater operations and maintenance (O&M) services is occurring as a result of inter-municipal and regional agreements between towns. Sharing equipment, staff, training, and widening funding options can improve stormwater management operations.

In NJ, a shared local service is any service provided on a regional, joint, interlocal, shared, or similar basis between local units, as agreed upon by the participating local governments. The problem of high property taxes paid by NJ’s residents can be ameliorated by encouraging government efficiency through shared services, regionalization, and consolidation. The NJ Uniform Shared Services and Consolidation Act (c. 63, PL 2007 as amended by c. 55, PL 2011; N.J.S.A 40A:65 et seq.) encourages the financial accountability of local units of government by reducing waste and duplicative services, and clearing legal hurdles to shared services and consolidation.

The NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA) published A Guide to Joint Service Feasibility Studies & Shared Service Agreements in July 2019 entitled "Shared Services—Working Together." In addition, the NJ State League of Municipalities maintains a Shared Services Resource Center, which contains adopted agreements, and other information.

Commonly shared municipal services listed in DCA’s Guide include the following services, among others:

  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Maintenance facilities
  • Buildings and grounds maintenance
  • Street paving, repair, and sweeping
  • Equipment sharing
  • Leaf pickup and disposal
  • Bulk waste and white goods pickup
  • Fuel dispensing facilities
  • Road striping
  • Shared fuel dispensing facilities
  • Sewer, drain and catch basin maintenance

Sharing drain and catch basin maintenance, equipment, and vehicles are eligible for consolidated services, and towns may wish to consider potential cost reductions associated with shared services. Find more information on Shared Services

Additional Information

Stormwater Utility

The Clean Stormwater and Flood Reduction Act, signed by the Governor in March 2019, allows stormwater utilities to be created by towns and counties in NJ. In places where stormwater utilities exist, the storm drainage planning and programming, operations and maintenance (O&M), and dedicated stormwater system funding occurs under the responsibility of a distinct stormwater management entity with a dedicated program for improved stormwater management.

The Clean Stormwater and Flood Reduction Act authorizes local and county governments to create stormwater utilities. Municipalities can use the funds generated from these utilities to improve infrastructure that protects water quality and prevents flooding in our communities. According to the law, a utility fee must be a "fair and equitable approximation of the proportionate contribution of stormwater runoff from a real property."

DEP is developing a stormwater utilities website for information required under the stormwater utility law. DEP is providing guidance covering:

  1. Technical assistance for entities seeking to establish utilities
  2. Factors to consider in rate-setting
  3. Asset management
  4. Public education