Update (3/17/22): PWSA is keeping track of all complaints that are sent to email@example.com, so please email them with your concerns. They say they will use that information to craft a policy particular to gardens. We are actively working on a plan to mitigate this situation and will share updates periodically.
If you are the Water for Gardens PWSA program account holder for your community garden or urban farm, you may have noticed a Stormwater Fee added to your account balance. PWSA provides up to $500 or 25,000 gallons of water per season for free to gardens in the program.
Grow Pittsburgh is committed to helping you navigate these changes and will advocate on behalf of gardens challenged by this requirement. Please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-573-9784 if you need assistance.
Here is the explanation for the Stormwater Fee from PWSA’s website.
Historically, we have funded our stormwater services from wastewater rates that are based on water usage. The new stormwater fee is based on the hard or impervious surfaces on a property. This ensures that all property owners in Pittsburgh contribute a share that is proportional to the amount of runoff generated by their property. Establishing a fee that is based on hard surfaces such as roofs, pavement, and asphalt is a more equitable way to charge for stormwater.
As part of the implementation of the new stormwater fee, wastewater conveyance rates will decrease since the new stormwater fee will begin to recover the stormwater costs previously included.
The new stormwater fee is a significant change to our rate structure. It provides a dedicated funding source for stormwater management and puts us on the path to, over time, increase investment in stormwater projects that include improvements to our sewer system and green infrastructures like rain gardens and street planters to help catch, retain, and filter stormwater runoff.
You will need the account number from your bill and the address for the garden listed on the bill. PWSA uses mapping data to determine how much impervious surface (does not absorb water) you have in your garden.
To find your parcel’s impervious area in square feet, please check your most recent stormwater bill, visit the PWSA Stormwater Fee Finder webpage, or call Customer Service at 412-255-2423 (Press Option 5). You will need to provide an explanation of how your site is absorbing water.
Here is an example from Ballfield Farm’s application.
This 5.65 acre property, called Ballfield Farm, consists of .6 acres of active agricultural space for growing annual and perennial fruits and vegetables as a completely voluntary activity conducted by neighbors and friends. The converted city-owned baseball field has been active since 2008. The entirety of the rest of the property is wooded area. There have been more than 7 dozen restoration trees planted throughout the acreage through TreeVitalize Pittsburgh planting projects as well as other plantings to help restore stormwater capture and ecological diversity (the emerald ash borer destroyed more than 5 dozen ash trees prior to 2014). Ballfield Farm members and neighbors care for the property throughout the year.
Though there is one hi-tunnel and two sheds on the property, there are no downspouts to the sewer system and water is captured either by the permeable grounds and contours surrounding each structure, or water is collected in rain barrels. The driveway for the farm is crushed stone, and a significant portion of the on the Stormwater fee finder map is actually piles of wood chips and compost for agriculture use. There is a rain garden next to one of the sheds on the property, installed in 2010.
Ballfield Farm uses PWSA water as sparingly as possible and only in months from April to November, primarily for the hi-tunnel and dry spells. It is part of the ethos of our voluntary members and the farm to use water minimally, in this space as well as our own individual residences. We are grateful for the water donation we do receive from PWSA and are collectively trying to do our part to reduce stormwater run-off. Thank you.
We would not expect you to have all of these elements in your garden, however, this will give you an idea of how to describe your garden’s operations and what to list that shows how the garden is absorbing rainwater. Rain barrels, trees, and gardens that allow rain to soak into the ground all contribute to absorbing more water on site.
PWSA will visit the garden to confirm your statement and inform you when your credit application has been approved.