Changes to Environmental Services Rates and Charges

Information
A graphic showing the old format versus the new format for stormwater charges. The old format has "on-site" and "off-site" charges, while the new format has "stormwater billable area" and "stormwater service unit" charges.
On July 1, 2024, City of Portland sewer, stormwater, and water utility customers will see changes to their sewer and stormwater rates, charges for connecting to the sewer, and Clean River Rewards discounts. Find out more about what those changes mean for customers on this page.
On this page

On November 29, 2023, Portland City Council voted to change the way Environmental Services charges rates. These changes will go into effect on July 1, 2024.


What are we changing?

We are making several changes to the way we bill our customers.  Below is a summary of the changes. For an overview of the changes specific to different customers, please view those individual pages:

Aligning rates with the cost of providing services

Over the last 20 years, Environmental Services has invested substantially in our shared stormwater management system. Major floodplain restoration and stormwater projects and the Big Pipe project mean we are now investing more in the stormwater system than in the sanitary system. This means that Environmental Services will shift our rates to reflect this greater investment in our stormwater system.

Updated stormwater billing methodology

For many years, Environmental Services has charged customers based on “off-site” and “on-site” stormwater costs. Instead, you will be billed for “stormwater billable area” and “service units.” This change will mean that you are billed based on the developed portion of your property as well as for the population using that property.

Note: Customers with overwater structures will continue to not be billed for stormwater services for the portion of their property that is over water.

Residential stormwater rate categories

In the past, Environmental Services billed all houses a flat rate for stormwater. This meant that homes with large amounts of stormwater billable area were billed the same as homes with small amounts of stormwater billable area. Environmental Services is retiring the flat rate and creating a new structure for billing homes for stormwater instead. Under the new rate structure, residential properties will be divided into one of three categories based on the amount of stormwater billable area on that property. Properties with less stormwater billable area will be billed less, and properties with larger amounts of stormwater billable area will be billed more. Most residential customers will remain in the standard category or be placed in the category for properties with smaller amounts of stormwater billable area. 

Lower cost to connect to our system

Starting on July 1, 2024, Environmental Services will no longer charge customers for line and branch or conversion sewer charges. These connection charges are a legacy of the decades-old Mid-County sewer project and were still required by City Code. These code requirements are being retired. This is particularly important for properties with nonconforming sewers or properties subject to mandatory sewer connection rules.

Updated Systems Development Charges (SDCs) to incentivize smaller homes

Sanitary and stormwater SDCs will be reduced for accessory dwelling units (ADUs). They will also be cut by approximately 25 percent for small homes. Similar benefits will be seen for smaller "missing middle" multi-family housing SDCs. 

Expanded Clean River Rewards, our stormwater discount program

The changes will expand eligibility and simplify registration for the Clean River Rewards program. Clean River Rewards provides up to a 35 percent discount on stormwater bills for customers who manage stormwater on their property. The changes will also make clear how to receive and maintain the discount while resolving stormwater management issues. 

On April 30, 2024, Environmental Services staff gave an informational presentation on changes to the Clean River Rewards discount program that will go into effect on July 1, 2024.
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Why are we changing the way we calculate our sewer and stormwater rates?

Utilities like Environmental Services regularly review their rate structures. These reviews are a best practice in the utility industry and are often called "rate studies." Rate studies look at spending and costs in comparison with other agencies. The goal of a rate study is to make sure that rates match up with the costs of service for each customer. 

In 2023, Environmental Services completed a rate study. The rate study identified several changes that Environmental Services could make. These changes will improve how we charge our customers. The changes will help many lower-income ratepayers and small businesses, incentivize the development of smaller and more affordable homes, and remove certain burdensome costs for our customers.

To learn more about the rate study process, visit Environmental Services' 2023-24 Rate Study Process.


How do these rate changes differ from Environmental Services’ annual rate increases?

Every year, Portland City Council votes on an annual rate increase. This vote sets rates for Environmental Services and the Portland Water Bureau. The annual rate increases allow the bureaus to raise the additional funding needed to cover the rising costs of providing services, such as inflation and managing treatment plants, pump stations, and sewer pipes. These annual price adjustments ensure that the bureaus can operate effectively, purchase the necessary equipment and chemicals, hire staff, and invest in new projects. However, these yearly price increases do not change how we charge you.

Unlike the annual rate increases, the recommended changes or adjustments from the recent rate study are designed to look at how we charge you and ensure that the fees (or rates) we charge for services accurately reflect the cost of providing services. Rate study changes are about making sure our rates are fair and cover our costs for providing sewer and stormwater services, encouraging conservation and other good behaviors, and making sure that we can keep providing our customers safe, clean, and reliable service into the future.