Stormwater management has been at the forefront of numerous Town Council and Project Management Team discussions prior to 2012.  In particular, how to fund stormwater management operations and more importantly, make necessary improvements, facilitated by a stormwater management enterprise fund has warranted further discussion.  These discussions, centered on learning more about stormwater operation and maintenance needs, funding options, the pending state and federal stormwater regulations and the Town’s ability to respond confirms that stormwater management has and will continue to be a significant need of the Town. Please explore this webpage to learn more.

Bristol has many unmet stormwater and water quality needs that are related to the Town’s natural characteristics and manner of development over the years, as well as aging infrastructure in the Town. Bristol is almost entirely surrounded by tidal waters and has several inlets and creeks that are subject to tidal action. Low lying areas are subject to flooding and conditions are getting worse in recent years due to sea level rise and changing rainfall patterns. In general, Bristol’s soils are relatively slow draining with a shallow depth to bedrock. Groundwater is high in many areas and septic systems are relatively uncommon. Almost the entire town has sanitary sewer service.

Bristol’s infrastructure was substantially built by 1970. Most roads, water lines, sanitary sewers and stormwater infrastructure were constructed more than 45 years ago. As a result, much of the infrastructure is considered “aged” and is reaching the end of its service life and needs to be addressed as part of a long term capital replacement program.  Bristol’s development occurred prior to the onset of significant environmental regulation and controls on public infrastructure, and as such the stormwater management system was not designed to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff. Equally important, with shallow groundwater and significant portions of the sanitary sewer system in poor condition, the Water Pollution Control Facility receives a large amount of stormwater and groundwater inflow during modest rainfall events. The facility was not designed to treat these high flows and overflows at the plant have led to shellfish closures, permit violations, and even monetary penalties in some cases. The Town of Bristol is further considering the feasibility of implementing a stormwater utility and user fee.


Stormwater Funding Mechanisms

There are several financial tools available to fund the stormwater management program. The figure below shows the range of these tools, some of which are currently used by the Town.

Stormwater Funding Options Available to Most Municipalities

SW Funding Options

The General Fund is the largest component of the existing funding for stormwater in Bristol and is derived from tax revenue. The Town currently makes liberal use of federal and state grants and loan monies that become available from time to time. Local bonds for drainage improvements are periodically issued, which are ultimately paid from the General Fund. Also, some one-time stormwater impact and inspection fees are charged that help insure against impacts from new construction activities. It is important to note that sewer user fees are used to correct inflow of stormwater into the sanitary sewer system from improper connections, such as down spouts and basement sump pumps. In part, these efforts help correct issues associated with the stormwater management system.

Key advantages of a stormwater program are:

  • It is stable because it is not as dependent on the vagaries of the annual budgetary process as taxes are.
  • It is adequate because, typically, the stormwater fee is based on a well thought out stormwater program to meet the needs of the community, as well as other program drivers (e.g., water quality, flood abatement, etc.).
  • It is flexible because fees can be structured in multiple ways, and the program can be managed to fund activities based on changing priorities and needs.
  • It is equitable because the cost is borne by the user on the basis of demand placed on the drainage system (impervious surface area on the property).

Many communities in the country, including several with older stormwater systems like Bristol, have implemented user fees to help pay for stormwater management work. Find more information on the Stormwater Enterprise Fund Fact Sheet and Acronyms/Definitions here.

This website was created as a resource for you to learn more about the challenges associated with managing and financing the Town’s stormwater management program which includes the benefits of funding the program through a SMEF. To learn more: