What is stormwater?

Stormwater is rain that doesn't soak into the ground. Instead it flows from our roofs, over pavement, across bare soil and down the street. As stormwater flows, it picks up everything in its path - oil, litter, pesticides, leaves, animal waste, and more. All this stuff then flows, untr​​​eated, directly into the closest waterway. Big stuff – like trash, leaves, and grass clippings – can clog the storm drains and contribute to localized flooding.

As more areas are developed with more impervious surfaces (e.g., roofs, roads, and sidewalks), less water is able to soak into the ground. The impervious surfaces increase the volume of stormwater.

​What is a watershed?

A ​watershed is an area of land that drains to a common body of water such as a stream, river or lake. Excluding water taken in by plants, all the rain falling on your property becomes stormwater that flows into the nearest stream and eventually into one of the three primary Virginia Beach watersheds: the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean or southern rivers.

​How does the stormwater system work?

The municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) is a network of drains, pipes and ditches that carry rain water away from impervious surfaces to outfall points at streams, creeks, rivers, lakes, bays, or oceans. The MS4 is owned and maintained by the City and is separate from the sanitary sewer, which primarily conveys wastewater from buildings' internal plumbing. 

The Virginia Beach MS4 is mostly a passive system in that it relies on gravity and the force of the water flowing through the pipes to carry water away from sidewalks, roads, and other impermeable surfaces.

Stormwater management facilities help remove pollutants from rainwater runoff to improve local surface water quality and/or prevent erosion and flooding. These are required to be installed during land development in accordance with the City's Stormwater Management Ordinance

Diagram illustrating where stormwater runoff goes. (Courtesy of NCDENR)

What is the stormwater utility fee?

The stormwater utility fee generates the funds needed to implement important stormwater projects that support minimizing flooding, improving water quality and compliance with regulations, and maintenance. The City's stormwater system serves everyone in our community by helping to drain surfaces and maintain water quality in local waterways.

Clean, healthy waterways are essential in Virginia Beach, where our lives and livelihoods are connected to the water used for swimming, fishing, and recreation. The stormwater utility fee helps to protect waterways from pollution that can destroy these benefits by funding three major types of activities:

  • Minimize flooding – The fee helps pay for improvements to our stormwater infrastructure to minimize flooding in neighborhoods and roadways.

  • Improve water quality and regulations compliance – The fee helps the City comply with state and federal water quality regulations necessary to clean up or prevent pollution of our waterways.

  • Maintenance – Most of the funds received through the fee are applied to infrastructure maintenance including regular inspections, cleaning, repairs, replacements, and oversight of stormwater management facilities (SWMFs) to ensure proper function.