What is stormwater?

    Stormwater is the water that flows into our sewers, creeks and lakes after it rains or from melting snow. In natural areas, stormwater can soak into the ground where it lands or be absorbed by vegetation. In urban areas, stormwater runs off hard surfaces (such as rooftops, parking areas, backyard patios, and roads), carrying pollution (such as debris, chemicals) into streams and rivers. Stormwater runoff from urban areas is greater in amount (since water cannot get into the natural ground that is covered with houses, roads, parking lots etc.), and flows off the land much more rapidly, increasing the potential to cause flooding and erosion along the way. Pollutants carried in stormwater enters the natural environment and has negative effects on water quality and the natural environment. Stormwater must be managed to reduce the risk of flooding and erosion, and to minimize harm to the environment.

    What does it mean to me?

    Individuals often do not think much about stormwater until they are directly affected either through disruptions caused by a severe storm event or due to property damage from flooding. But stormwater runoff can impact the community in several ways:

    • Flooding from storm events can damage public as well as personal property, impact business operations and even hinder our day-to-day activities.

    • Runoff can pick up and transport harmful pollutants such as oil, grease, trash and fertilizers to our water ways.

    • Rapid drainage from developed land can cause severe erosion of stream banks and scouring of creeks, further degrading water quality and impacting valuable habitats.

    The City’s Engineering, Public Works and Pollution Control departments look after the stormwater management system that collects, transports, controls and in some cases treats stormwater runoff.

    What is the City’s role in managing stormwater?

    The City of Windsor is responsible for managing stormwater within the municipality. This includes planning, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining stormwater assets within municipal roadways, public easements and other City lands. The stormwater management program is crucial in protecting public safety and health and works to reduce flood risk, control erosion and maintain water quality in local natural waterways. 

    Stormwater, both quality and quantity, are managed by the City’s stormwater program. This includes operating and maintaining storm sewers, ditches, inlets, stormwater management facilities (ponds), bridges, culverts, infiltration facilities, oil grit separators, engineered and natural channels, and storm sewer outfalls to streams and watercourses.

    The City’s stormwater assets include: 

    • More than 1025 km of pipes
    • Approximately 15,300 manholes
    • More than 22,615 catch basins
    • 29 stormwater ponds (wet and dry)
    • 39 pump stations
    • Approximately 124 km of municipal drains
    • Approximately 254 km of roadside ditches

    The estimated replacement cost value of the existing stormwater system is approximately $1.8 Billion. 

    The City has a responsibility to effectively manage this infrastructure and protect the environment. To meet this responsibility, the City: 

    • Undertakes flood protection projects
    • Maintains, repairs and restores existing infrastructure
    • Provides emergency response to flooding, spills and clean-up
    • Carries out street sweeping
    • Enforces by-laws to protect the environment and prevent interference with the operation of the stormwater management system

    The City has been adapting its policies and practices in order to meet provincial and federal regulatory requirements. The relevant stormwater rules and regulations include Provincially the Ontario Water Resources Act, Drainage Act, Environmental Protection Act, Emergency Management Act, Water Opportunities Act, Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act, Provincial Water Quality Objectives, and Federally the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and Fisheries Act.

    What are the current costs to local property owners? How does the City fund its stormwater program, including studies?

    Generally, the annual stormwater operating budget and capital improvement budget are funded through sewer surcharge. The sewer surcharge is a user rate that reflects the costs of water entering the sewer system from a property, based on the user’s water consumption. The City’s 2020 sewer surcharge budget, which funds operating and capital costs for both sanitary and stormwater systems, is approximately $76.8 million.  The City is currently working on separating the stormwater related costs from the sanitary related cost.  To date, the City has not tracked these costs independently.

    What are the benefits to local property owners?

    The benefits of an effective stormwater management program include a reduction in flood risk, improved water quality and environment, and reduced stream and creek erosion.

    What can I do to help?

    The biggest influencing factor in the amount of stormwater runoff in the community is the presence of surfaces that do not absorb water, including roofs, driveways, concrete patios, roads and parking lots. By minimizing the paving of land areas and properly maintaining the runoff from these surfaces, you can help manage stormwater. 

    Maintenance at home can include keeping storm sewer inlets clear as well as the cleaning and maintenance of downspouts, weeping tiles, sump pumps, back water valves and sewer lines from your residence to the municipal lines. You can also use rain barrels and plant vegetation to minimize flows draining from your property. Disconnecting your downspout (eavestrough) is another way to minimize flows draining from your property. Since rainwater falling onto your roof is generally cleaner, it is also ideal for use in gardens, car washing and for lawn care. Due to recent flooding, the City is considering implementing a mandatory downspout disconnection policy. 

    For more information about what you can do check out: 






    The majority of the City’s storm drains do not connect to treatment facilities, but rather drain untreated stormwater into local waterways. Therefore, it is important to not put anything into the drains or roadside ditches that can pollute local streams or creeks. 

    • Maintain your property – pick up wastes, such as pet and yard wastes, and dispose of them properly. 
    • Consider using a local car wash that collect and treat the dirty water before it is released to the environment. 
    • Understand the fertilizer and other chemicals you are using – read and follow the instructions. 
    • Always dispose of hazardous materials such as paint and motor oil at your local hazardous waste collection centre.

    What is the Stormwater Financing Study?

    The goal of the City’s Stormwater Financing Study (the Study) is to develop a balanced approach to funding stormwater management infrastructure through a review of the level of service and funding options.

    Study objectives include:

    • Understand existing stormwater program (including level of service) and compare it to similar municipalities (such as Mississauga, Guelph and Brampton)

    • Understand future stormwater management infrastructure program needs and service levels

    • Investigate and recommend a preferred alternative for funding the future stormwater management infrastructure program

    • Develop a strategy to implement the preferred alternative

    Why is the City undertaking the Study?

    The City of Windsor is undertaking the Study to assess the current stormwater program and how it is funded, and explore alternative ways to pay for the City’s future stormwater management needs. The Study began in December 2018 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

    Stormwater needs continue to grow as the existing infrastructure ages, as new infrastructure is needed to handle development growth and changing storm events, and as water quality impacts continue. This Study will consider the existing and projected stormwater needs and costs and evaluate alternatives for paying for on-going investment in this critical program.

    What are potential stormwater challenges facing Windsor?

    Typical municipal stormwater problems include:

    • Climate change is affecting the intensity and frequency of storm events that stormwater management programs must respond to.

    • Urban growth and development alter the amount of runoff and pollution.

    • Infrastructure such as pipes, culverts and outfalls have limited life expectancy.

    • Stormwater facilities must be actively maintained throughout their expected life, including watercourses, storm sewers, catch basins, stormwater ponds, pump stations, culverts and outfalls.

    • Appropriate resources, assets and improvement projects must be proactively planned to address needs and problems.

    • Design standards have changed, and designs developed under old standards may be inadequate to meet regulatory requirements.

    • Development plans must be thoroughly reviewed, and sites adequately inspected during construction to ensure the adequacy of design and construction.

    Are there any issues currently within the City?

    The majority of the stormwater-related issues the City faces are localized flooding during heavy rain events, ageing pipes and other stormwater infrastructure, and a significant number of stormwater ponds that require maintenance due to more heavy rainfall events.

    What are the community’s priorities for managing stormwater needs?

    Current priorities include:

    • Reducing the risk of flooding

    • Improving drainage

    • Protecting community health and safety

    • Reducing environmental pollution

    What will happen at the end of the Study?

    The City is currently sharing information and inviting input through virtual engagement. Between September 21 and October 19, you can watch our video presentation and add your voice to the conversation by filling out our online survey.  Visit the Get Involved tab for details. 

    Based on feedback received, the recommended program may be modified to address input received prior to the presentation to City Council for approval.

    When will the recommendations/findings be implemented?

    It is anticipated a final recommendation will go before Council later this year.  If a decision is made by Council to move ahead with the new stormwater management program and rate structure, an implementation phase will follow this Study.  This implementation phase would include detailed calculations of impervious areas of all non-residential properties, a sampling of residential properties and details of a billing structure. This implementation phase would be expected to take approximately one year.

    What are other Municipalities doing?

    Across Southern Ontario, Municipalities are undertaking similar stormwater financing studies in order to reevaluate their stormwater management systems, define their future needs, and determine how they will be financed. Some examples of Municipalities who have implemented designated stormwater rates include London, Middlesex Centre, Kitchener, Hamilton and Mississauga. The Study will compare potential stormwater rates for the City of Windsor against other Municipalities in order to determine the preferred financing alternative.