Why Manage Stormwater?

The City is subject to a permit under the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law and the federal Clean Water Act that regulates Bethlehem’s storm drainage system. This permit, known as a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit, imposes specific mandates on the City for preventing new pollution and reducing pollution from existing sources.
Stormwater is rain and melted snow that “runs off” the land. In natural, undeveloped areas, soil absorbs and filters most of the stormwater in a process called infiltration. The water that runs off the land in Bethlehem flows to Monocacy Creek, Nancy Run, Saucon Creek, and the Lehigh River.

During development, natural areas are replaced with roofs, driveways, sidewalks, and streets. These hard surfaces, called impervious surfaces, do not allow water to penetrate them and increase the volume and velocity of stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff carries fertilizers, sediment, oil, grease, heavy metals, trash, and anything else deposited on impervious surfaces directly into the City’s storm drain system and natural stream systems. This can cause:
  • Erosion of streams and decreased water quality;
  • Contamination of downstream water quality and drinking water supplies; and,
  • Flooding, property damage, and damage to public storm drains.
 The City of Bethlehem is taking action to clean up our community’s stormwater runoff and to make necessary investments in our aging stormwater infrastructure. Many of the City’s pipes are over 100 years old. This will not only help to improve water quality and our environment for future generations, but also help protect residents and private property from damage due to flooding.

Stormwater Utility Fee

The City of Bethlehem has been working diligently to develop solutions to our water quality and flood control challenges. After considering different options, like many other communities the City chose to implement a stormwater utility fee. A stormwater utility fee is a charge based on the amount of impervious area on a property.
This approach has several advantages. First, it fairly distributes the cost of the City’s stormwater services since the amount of impervious area is related to the amount of stormwater that must be managed and all property owners directly benefit from a well maintained and regulated drainage management system. This concept is similar to measuring usage and calculating fees for drinking water and sanitary sewer services. Second, the amount of the fee must be linked to demonstrated need for publicly provided stormwater management services addressing flood abatement, water quality protection, infrastructure operation and maintenance, and regulatory compliance. All revenue is deposited into a special fund that can only be used for stormwater management.
For common questions about the stormwater fee, please see our FAQ document.

Past public outreach/Press about the Stormwater Fee:

The City of Bethlehem has been looking into adopting a stormwater fee ordinance for the past five years, similar to ordinances previously passed in Allentown and Easton and others around the state and country. Our fee is considerably lower than both those neighboring cities. Other local municipalities are currently working on stormwater fees as well.  While considering and adopting this fee, we have reached out via newspapers and advertised online virtual public meetings. We met with many of the largest rate payers on October 20, 21, 22 and November 2 and 13 in 2020.  We had an online Public Meeting on November 17, 2020.  This meeting was advertised on the City website, Lehigh Valley Live, the Express Times and a general Press Release was issued.  The Fee was discussed at City Council Budget Hearings in 2019 and 2020, both of which were advertised ahead of the meetings.  An online public presentation (see it here) was given at City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting on December 1, 2020 and public comment was also invited at the December 1st and 15th, 2020 City Council meetings which both advertised the agenda in a Press Release, in the Express Times, and on the City’s website.  A number of articles were in the local media over the last two years.  These include Lehigh Valley Live on 11/08/19, 12/18/19, and 12/16/20, the Morning Call on 11/18/19, 12/17/19, and 12/16/20 and on WFMZ on 12/02/20.

Stormwater Credit Manual:

Up to 50% credit can be applied to non-residential stormwater bills and low-income residential parcels. In order to apply for credit please see our credit manual.

For further questions, please email stormwaterfee@bethlehem-pa.gov
Or call 610-865-7063