Stormwater management

Apply for the stormwater credit program, learn how to reduce drainage of pooling water and how we work to reduce the impact of runoff into creeks, ponds and wetlands.

On this page

  1. What is stormwater
  2. Stormwater ponds and recreation
  3. Stormwater credit program
  4. Drainage and flooding
  5. Spills and protection
  6. Stormwater improvement projects
  7. Sewer drains and covers
  8. Apply to alter stormwater management infrastructure

What is stormwater

Stormwater is runoff that flows over hard surfaces such as roads, driveways and rooftops, enters drainage systems, and then goes into creeks, ponds and wetlands. Unlike sewage, stormwater is untreated when it enters waterways.

Stormwater Ponds and recreation

For your safety, stormwater ponds should never be used for recreational activity. Ponds:

  • are meant for neighbourhood safety, not recreation
  • reduce flooding, control erosion and collect pollutants
  • freeze over during the winter, but the thickness of the ice is unpredictable because water is constantly flowing and may contain road salt and other contaminants

Watch: stormwater pond safety (00:46)

Stormwater credit program

To improve stormwater management on private property we offer up to 45% off the stormwater fee on your utility bill. The level of credit depends on runoff control measures in place on your property.

Our online process is the quickest way to submit an application for the Stormwater Credit Program. Have your seven-digit water account number on hand to get started.

Guidelines for single homes

Residential properties qualify for a credit by implementing an approved stormwater management practice on their property. These are calculated based on the total potential volume of rainwater captured and diverted from the stormwater system:

Volume (L)

Credit granted (%)









3201 and greater


Approved management practices:

Rain barrels and cisterns

A rain barrel captures rainwater from rooftop downspouts. The barrel is able to store the rainwater for future use. A cistern performs the same service but is larger in size. The following are required, in order to qualify for a stormwater credit using a rain barrel or cistern:
  • it must hold a minimum of 200 litres/52 gallons.
  • the barrel should be positioned on a flat surface
  • the cover and barrel cannot have leaks or be broken in any way
  • there must be a screen on the opening of the barrel to prevent contaminants from entering
  • the elbow of the eavestrough must be attached so that water is flowing into the barrel
  • two or more rain barrels must be connected to downspouts, in sequence or separately
  • the overflow spout should not be draining to an paved surface such as a driveway


  • the barrel/cistern should be disconnected for the winter months to prevent cracking
  • raise your barrel a few inches from the ground for better pressure and flow of water
  • drain your barrel before the next rain event to make room for more water


Trees provide many benefits for stormwater management. A tree canopy intercepts rainfall and releases it back into the atmosphere. Root systems promote infiltration and reduce erosion.

For this credit, trees on your property are measured based on their diameter at breast height (DBH). There are two levels for the tree credit.

Level 1: must have the approximate equivalent of five trees on your property. Each one with a trunk the size of a dinner plate or bigger. The total tree diameter must exceed 130 cm (50 inches) to qualify for a 200 litre credit.
Level 2: must have the approximate equivalent 13 large trees on your property.Each one with a trunk the size of a dinner plate or bigger. The total tree diameter must exceed 330 cm (130 inches) to qualify for a 500 litre credit.

Infiltration galleries, soakaway pits, dry wells and French drains

Infiltration galleries have many names including soakaway pits, dry wells and French drains. Their purpose is to allow clean water to soak into the ground and recharge drinking water sources.

They usually take the form of underground pits that are filled with stone or gravel, providing a storage space for water while it absorbs into the ground.

The galleries receive clean rainwater from rooftops, so that groundwater does not become contaminated.


  • Galleries should be at least five metres away from the house to prevent basement flooding
  • there should be nothing blocking the flow into the pit or chamber
  • rainwater should be routed from eavestroughs into the gallery
  • eavestroughs should have gutter guards to prevent debris from plugging the gallery

Permeable pavers

Permeable pavers allow stormwater to percolate and filter through the pavement and into the aggregate layers or soil below.

Permeable pavement surfaces are made of nonporous and porous materials and allow water to flow between the gaps. Examples of these materials are:

Nonporous materials:

  • paving stones
  • interlocking paver

Porous material:

  • pervious concrete
  • porous asphalt

Permeable pavers reduce runoff and improve water quality by filtering pollutants in the subsurface layers.


  • the difference between traditional paving stones and permeable pavers is a larger spacing between stones
  • permeable pavers use a loose gravel mix containing no sand around and below the pavers
  • it must contain at least 0.3m (1 ft) of stone base/subbase beneath the paver stones to store stormwater
  • patio stone driveways or other systems that lack spacing between the stones and a loose gravel base beneath do not qualify for stormwater credits

Rain gardens

A rain garden is a shallow depression in the ground filled with well-draining soil and mulch and native plants that soak up rain and reduces runoff to local creeks and rivers.

This credit requires the following:

  • a quantifiable volume of water must be held on your property
  • water from impervious surfaces such as rooftops must be routed directly to the garden
  • water should soak into the soil within 72 hours of a rainfall event

Learn more about building a rain garden at the Reep Green Solutions website.

Visit our rain garden at the Waterloo Service Centre from May to October, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The customer service desk at the main entrance will direct you to the garden.

Guidelines for multi-unit or non-residential properties

Non-residential/multi-residential property owners can receive up to a 45 percent credit on their stormwater utility bill. For many properties, qualified stormwater management controls may have already been installed as part of the site plan process. When applying for the credit, it is helpful if you have a copy of your stormwater management report.

The credit is based on three categories:

  • Flood reduction or quantity control (up to 25 percent credit)
  • Pollution control or quality control (up to 15 percent credit)
  • Education (up to 5 percent credit)

Flood controls

Controls include:

  • Rooftop storage: a flat roof designed to collect stormwater during rainfalls through orifice plates. The water drains through the outlets and downspouts to the underground drainage system.
  • Parking lot storage: allows water to be collected and stored before it flows into the stormwater system.
  • Underground storage: detention storage located underground in tanks or vaults that collects and stores runoff. The water is slowly released into our stormwater system.
  • Stormwater management pond: designed to collect runoff to prevent flooding.
  • Green roof: consists contains soil and vegetation on the rooftop of a building. The plants act as a sponge, soaking up rain water and preventing runoff.

Pollution controls

The credit received for pollution control is based on the level of treatment.

  • Enhanced treatment is considered to provide an 80 percent or higher total suspended solids (TSS) removal rate. Enhanced treatment is eligible for up to 15 percent credit.
  • Normal treatment is considered to provide a 70 percent TSS removal rate. Normal treatment is eligible for up to 10 percent credit.
  • Basic treatment is considered to provide a 60 percent TSS removal rate. Basic treatment is eligible for up to 5 percent credit.
  • Additional credit up to the 15 percent maximum may be awarded for other best management practices implemented on site, such as a salt management plan or paved area sweeping program.
Controls include:
  • Bioswales: a vegetated open channel designed to reduce and treat runoff. They are formed similar to ditches and are filled with soil called filter media and vegetation that absorbs the runoff.
  • Oil/grit separator: a structure installed underground as a part of the stormwater system. It filters runoff by removing pollutants, sediment and oils from the water.
  • Paved area sweeping program: sweeping paved areas on a regular basis to reduce the amount of sediment, debris, and trash from entering the storm sewers.
  • Salt management plan: reducing the amount of salt used during the winter season improves water quality. The plan must be certified through the Smart about Salt program.
  • Stormwater management pond: a pond designed to collect runoff and it allows sediment in the water to settle removing some of the pollutants before releasing the water into our waterways.
  • Vegetated filter strip: a low-angled slope covered in vegetation that is designed to slow runoff from entering our waterways. The vegetation acts as a pre-treatment to slow runoff and remove sediment.

Education programs

  • Customer: businesses that offer services to customers that may result in impacting our stormwater system may be eligible for the education credit should they offer educational tools. We require copies of the training material(s) to be submitted for review.
  • Employee: companies that have implemented a training or awareness program about stormwater management may be eligible for the education credit. We require copies of the training material(s) to be submitted for review.
  • Student: schools or post-secondary institutions that distribute materials in highly visible areas or add stormwater management to their curriculum may be eligible for the education credit. We require copies of the training material(s) to be submitted for review.
  • Tenant/landlord: landlords who create and distribute educational materials to their tenants may be eligible for the education credit. We require copies of the training material(s) to be submitted for review.

Apply online

Submit information on your residential property using our online application system. Non- and multi-residential properties must follow the mail process below.

Apply online

Apply by mail

  1. Depending on property type, download the residential or non-residential/multi-residential application form (PDFs).
  2. Print the form, fill it out and submit by mail to:

Waterloo Service Centre
265 Lexington Court
P.O. Box 337, Station Waterloo
Waterloo, ON, N2J 4A8

Drainage and flooding

During heavy rain or rapid snowmelt, water may pool around your house or accumulate in driveways or patios. This may lead to standing water, difficulty of water flow or unwanted water on your property.

Drainage issues are usually caused by:

  • compacted soil
  • filled in or blocked side yard
  • backyard drainage swales
  • blocked private catch basin
  • incorrect grading
  • improper location and installation of landscape features like a fence or flowerbeds

Managing standing or excess water using landscaping, rain-scaping techniques, proper grading and maintaining your catch basin or stormwater drainage swale will reduce surface water getting into your home. Some of these techniques qualify for the stormwater credit program. 

Learn more about managing grading and drainage and how to maintain drainage features on our web page.

Drainage disputes on private property

Drainage issues on private property are managed as civil matters. Storm drainage is one of the most common areas of dispute and the city does not intervene or mediate neighbour’s drainage dispute issues on private property. Currently, no municipality has the authority to maintain or improve storm drainage facilities across an individual’s property.

Common-law applies to drainage issues on private property and is considered a civil matter. Common-law recognizes that the lower land must accept the naturally flowing surface water from higher land. Surface water should not be directed by artificial means onto neighbouring properties.

Learn more about managing grading and drainage and how to make a complaint about city-maintained drainage features on our web page.

Property standards and bylaw for drainage maintenance

Homeowners can make changes to their yards, including grading. The purpose of the original grading conditions have to be maintained and overall draining patterns in the neighbourhood remain as designed.

View our Property Standards Bylaw for guidelines on drainage maintenance like:

  • excessive ponding of water
  • preventing water from damaging a building or structure
  • avoid interfering with drainage patterns
  • how to avoid discharging roof drainage onto a neighbouring property, sidewalk, walkway or road allowance

Spills and protection

Anything that enters storm drains (the square, metal grates along the edge of roads) goes directly into creeks and stormwater management ponds, and then into the Grand River. If you suspect or know of hazardous substances entering drains, report it immediately to us at 519-886-2310.

Draining pools and hot tubs

Owners of private pools and hot tubs must ensure water is drained safely and in accordance with local bylaws. Pool and hot tubs can contain harmful chemicals such as salts, chlorine, bromine and algaecides that are harmful to aquatic life.

When draining your pool or hot tub, follow these guidelines:

  • water must not be drained directly into stormwater drains or parks
  • chlorinated pool or hot tub water must be dechlorinated before it is discharged (let your water sit for one to two weeks without adding chemicals, or use dechlorination tablets)
  • test your water before discharge to ensure it follows regulations - safe discharge levels for chlorine and bromine are 0.1 mg/L or lower
  • drain the water slowly on your property
  • if you have limited yard space, drain the water over time to reduce ponding and runoff
  • saltwater pool water must be hauled away, it should never be discharged into the sanitary sewer connection to your home

Other tips for protecting the stormwater system

There are many things you can do to keep pollution out of the stormwater system:
  • use a rain barrel to collect water for your garden
  • ensure downspouts drain onto lawn or garden areas, not streets or paved surfaces
  • wash your car at a carwash rather than your driveway
  • limit the use of fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn
  • dispose of hazardous products (such as motor oil or antifreeze) at your local waste management facility
  • don't sweep debris from your sidewalks and driveways onto the road
  • pick up pet waste regularly
  • keep the catch basin closer to your property clean of trash and leaves
  • don’t dump liquids, other than water, on your garden, driveway, sidewalk and the road

Stormwater improvement projects

The city is working on a number of projects to improve the capacity of local stormwater systems. Review the Stormwater Management System Annual report (PDF) to learn more about actions taken to sustain the system.

Current pond improvement projects

Columbia Forest Stormwater Management Area, pond 45
full sediment removal
construction to be completed by Fall 2025

RIM Park Stormwater Management Area A, pond 27
full sediment removal
construction to be completed by Fall 2025

Trillium Valley Park stormwater management area, pond 48

  • identified for cleanout given the level of sediment accumulation in the pond
  • needs retrofit to improve performance and address operational issues
  • environment assessment underway in 2022 ahead of construction in 2023
  • visit Engage Waterloo for updates

To inquire about the status of a project in your neighbourhood, contact the project manager at

Completed pond improvement projects

Baker stormwater management area, pond 1

  • full sediment removal
  • construction to be completed by Fall 2023
Beaver Creek stormwater management area, pond 42
  • full sediment removal
  • construction to be completed by Fall 2023
Churchill stormwater management area, pond 55
  • construction completed in 2018
  • trail work and installation of a grate on the pond outlet
Creekside stormwater management area,pond 53
  • construction completed in 2018
  • retrofit with full sediment removal and a sediment reuse study

Jacob Lane Stormwater Management Areapond 36

  • full sediment removal
  • construction to be completed by Spring 2023
Rosewood Stormwater Management Area, pond 51
  • full sediment removal
  • construction to be completed by Spring 2023
Trillium Valley Park stormwater management area, pond 10 and pond 28
  • cleanout and retrofit of Pond 10 and 28 completed Winter/Spring 2021

Waterloo Service Centre Stormwater Management Areapond 49

  • full sediment removal
  • construction to be completed by Fall 2023
Westvale Park stormwater management area, pond 3
  • construction completed in 2019
  • retrofit and full removal of accumulated sediment
Westvale Park stormwater management area, pond 4
  • construction completed in 2019
  • replacement of the outlet structure and full removal of accumulated sediment
Completed in 2017/2018 with grants from the Federal Clean Water and Wastewater Fund:
  • Columbia stormwater management area (pond 41)
  • Northfield stormwater management area (pond 20)
  • Melitzer Woodlot stormwater management area A (pond 30)
  • Yarmouth stormwater management area (pond 33)
  • Dorwood Stormwater Management Area (pond 38)
  • Laurelwood stormwater management area (pond 12)
  • Cedar Bend stormwater management area (pond 52)
  • Royal Beech Park stormwater management area (pond 7)
  • Conservation Meadows Park Stormwater Management Area (pond 14)

Creek bank stabilization projects

The following projects are currently undergoing design or construction:

  • Laurel Creek: Hillside Park to Highway 85 is undergoing detailed design. This work will provide bank stabilization in areas with risk from erosion and existing infrastructure.

The following creek bank stabilizations have been completed and are now under maintenance:

  • Colonial Creek: about 20 metres of Colonial Creek at Lee Avenue and Castlefield Avenue
  • Laurel Creek: approximately 500 metres of Laurel Creek between Erb Street East and Weber Street North

Sewer drains and sewer covers

Storm drains, also called catch basins are installed next to street curbs to receive and direct storm water into city storm mains. Catch basins that are close to your property need to be kept clean of trash and leaves to prevent flooding.

Sometimes personal items and wildlife fall into catch basins. Please contact the city at 519-886-2310 to retrieve or rescue them. Do not attempt to remove them yourself. Do not lift the sewer cover or grate. The city will do our best to retrieve or rescue items.

Do not put yourself at risk, all sewer covers are heavy and you could get injured. Do not get into the manhole or pipe, this is considered to be a confined space and there could be dangerous gases or you could get stuck inside it.

Only trained city staff are allowed to remove sewer covers and enter catch basins or manholes. We use specialized tools and methods to extract any personal items and wildlife in these unusual circumstances. Do not contact the city to retrieve toys, balls, hair pins etc. Items must be of significant value or wildlife, that typically do not reside in the storm system such as ducks.

Apply to alter stormwater management infrastructure

View the water utilities alterations page to learn how to apply for changes.