Surface Water Management

Surface Water Management (SWM) is an operating unit within the Public Works department and is responsible for the management of the City's surface water systems. This involves protecting developed and undeveloped properties from flooding, run-off, and water quality problems, while continuing to accommodate new residential and commercial growth. SWM also promotes the preservation of natural drainage systems and the protection of fishery resources and wildlife habitat.

Federal Way gets about 41 inches of rainfall per year. Rain and run-off that flow from roads, roofs, and yards is called surface water. Run-off becomes polluted from sources such as vehicle fluids, lawn chemicals, pet wastes, cigarette butts, and other garbage. Because most stormwater systems do not contain filters or provide treatment, the stormwater carries pollution straight into our local waters and into Puget Sound. These pollutants can poison fish, birds, and other wildlife. The City of Federal Way works to reduce these unwanted impacts.

SWM's services include: 

Please note that SWM is not associated with the three water districts currently providing water and sewer service within the city. Please refer to your water and sewer bill to determine your provider. The Lakehaven Water and Sewer District can be reached at 253-941-1516 and Tacoma Water can be reached at 253-502-8600.

For more information on SWM, please see the Federal Way Revised Code, Chapter 11.35, "Surface Water Utility in General."

For information on SWM Design and Development related documents, visit the Development Services page.

Regulatory Framework

The Washington State Department of Ecology administers surface water regulations through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) in accordance with the Federal Clean Water Act. The City must comply with NPDES rules, actively managing run-off so it does not pollute downstream waters.

SWM follows these rules to:

  • Protect all developed and undeveloped properties from flooding, polluted run-off, and on-site issues (such as oil spills).
  • Monitor residential and commercial construction to ensure effective drainage systems are built-in.
  • Maintain storm drains, run-off detention ponds, and run-off drainage (pipe networks, ditches, and streams) throughout the city.
  • Manage natural drainage systems like wetlands and streams with a focus on protecting fish and wildlife habitat.

SWM is funded through a property tax assessment

Like almost every city in King County, Federal Way assesses a property tax charge that funds SWM services.

An independent consultant calculated how much funding is needed to:

  • Meet State NPDES regulations
  • Maintain or replace existing SWM infrastructure
  • Inspect new development, and
  • Protect and restore water quality and local aquatic habitat. 

The current SWM assessment was approved by the City Council in 2019 and includes annual increases. There is a standard fee per residence that factors in the total square footage of property plus a factor for how much is covered by hard (impervious) surfaces.  In general, the larger the property, the more surface water that drains off a property, and the higher the assessment. 





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