Have you ever noticed the Surface Water Management (SWM) Fee on your sewer/water bill and wondered what you are paying for? According to Clean Water Services’ website, “Within the Urban Growth Boundary in Washington County, we all do. Each resident of the community contributes to the cost of the SWM program because we all use the buildings, streets, parking lots and sidewalks that contribute to the potential impacts on water quality resulting from stormwater runoff. The SWM utility monthly service charge is based on the amount of impervious area on a piece of property. The average residential property owner pays $6.25 per month, and larger properties pay more. Developers also pay fees for the cost of building the drainage systems and water quality facilities serving their developments.”
Catch basin cleaning is part of SWM fee benefits

Storm sewers in the urban parts of the Tualatin basin for the most part are connected directly from street to stream, rushing stormwater and pollutants to the nearest creek in every storm. The fee that residents pay supports a lot of service that reduces the amount of pollution entering our creeks. Included in these services are street sweeping, video inspection of sewers, catch basin cleanout, stream corridor enhancement, spill response, erosion control, water quality facilities, emergency flood response, pollution enforcement and maintenance. It also pays for replacement of aging pipes, drains and equipment.

SWM Surcharge Summary

Jurisdiction Monthly
SWM Fee for
Tualatin $5.47
Hillsboro $6.25
Tigard $8.25
Beaverton $8.25
Forest Grove $7.00
Cornelius $11.40
Sherwood $13.77
Portland $24.88

Clean Water Services shares this fee with their member cities for their role in stormwater management. Some of the cities charge an additional amount. This additional charge is often associated with replacing aging pipes and infrastructure. City councils and the county commissioners have been reluctant to raise SWM rates, which makes it difficult for municipal staff to keep up with maintenance and repair of the storm sewer system.

For example, the City of Hillsboro, which does not charge its customers a SWM surcharge, has deferred maintenance on 158 water quality facilities (WQFs) located throughout Hillsboro. The intergovernmental agreement between Hillsboro and Clean Water Services establishes regular maintenance schedules for all WQFs requiring an average of 4 to 6 site visits per year. Based on inventory records, 141 out of 158 WQFs are in fair to very poor condition. Hillsboro has also deferred maintenance on 790 outfall structures. To date, only 50 of these structures have been inspected. Catching up on maintenance and inspection of WQFs and outfall structures will cost Hillsboro over $500,000 per year. Hillsboro is proposing a $1/month SWM surcharge which may not be adequate to catch up on deferred maintenance according to a staff report.

For more information about the benefits paid for by SWM fees, see Clean Water Services web page.

Your SWM fees help support tree planting along creeks.