About the Water Quality Protection Charge: Uses and Benefits
What is the Water Quality Protection Charge?
The Water Quality Protection Charge (WQPC) is a charge based on the amount of impervious surface of a property. It appears as a line item on a property tax bill.
The WQPC is assessed on all residential properties and certain nonresidential properties. It was implemented in 2002 after years of study and recommendations by citizens serving on work groups and task forces, County Council staff, and the Department of Environmental Protection.
Why is the WQPC necessary?
Rainfall can't penetrate impervious surfaces such as roads, pavements, sidewalks, rooftops, driveways, and patios. Rainfall runoff therefore washes pollutants like oil and grease from driveways, fertilizers and pesticides from yards and turf areas, and pet waste from sidewalks into nearby streams or stormwater management structures. Stormwater runoff also erodes local stream banks if it's not properly managed by well-maintained ponds, sand filters, infiltration trenches, or other stormwater management structures.
Controlling the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff entering our streams and rivers helps to:
Protect our drinking water sources
Prevent flooding and property damage and the related damages, delays, and costs
Maintain the water quality of our streams and rivers in compliance with the water quality standards established under the federal Clean Water Act
Stormwater control and management are not paid for by private developers or by the federal or state government. Stormwater control is achieved through a variety of structures, services, and programs run by the County, and WQPC funds help to pay for them. The funding helps to restore and improve our damaged streams and waterways by maintaining the stormwater management facilities, installing new stormwater management facilities, restoring damaged streams, and monitoring water quality to ensure that the controls are working to maintain the ecological integrity of our streams and rivers.
The levies from the WQPC are used to pay for the structural maintenance of stormwater management facilities and water quality improvements in the County.
The WQPC pays partially for the capture and treatment of uncontrolled stormwater runoff from urban surfaces through:
Environmentally sensitive design installations (e.g., rain gardens, bio swales, sand filters, bio-retention basins). Rather than treating rainfall as a waste to be channeled quickly off-site, these installations work by retaining, soaking in, and infiltrating rainfall and snowmelt on-site. This helps to maintain a natural water balance. Learn more about these installations on the Environmentally Sensitive /Low-Impact Development page.
Retrofitting of stormwater facilities such as ponds, underground devices, and pipes, which are vital infrastructure to prevent flooding and pollution.
The stormwater maintenance program is County-wide. However, the cities of Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Takoma Park are not included in this program because they are already implementing stormwater maintenance programs in their own respective cities. Takoma Park will continue to assess its own stormwater fee, which applies to city residents.
I don't have any drainage or stormwater problems. Why do I pay the WQPC?
Although the effects might not be directly apparent, stormwater from the impervious surfaces on your property contributes to a cumulative downstream effect that includes (1) increases in volume and (2) potential increases in pollutants. To deal with this ubiquitous stormwater runoff to which your property contributes a small part, the County relies on the WQPC funding for its stormwater management programs.
Everyone benefits from the clean water in our rivers and streams, adequate flood protection, and good public health that are supported by the County's stormwater control and maintenance programs. The benefits of a clean environment also translate to monetary benefits such as reduced water rates and reduced public monies spent on emergencies related to flooding and other damage.
The charge is based on the average amount of square feet of roof, sidewalk, and driveway for a single-family dwelling. The average amount of impervious surface has been calculated to be 2,406 square feet, which is the Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) or the base unit for calculating the WQPC. Impervious surfaces were determined by analyzing a statistically significant number of residential parcels in a geographic information system (GIS) available from Montgomery County and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.