The CSO! Program is a major water quality improvement program being led by the City of Omaha Public Works Department. It will improve water quality in our local rivers and streams by capturing or treating 85% of the average annual combined sewage volume through a series of projects. Before beginning implementation of the CSO! Program, about 3.7 billion gallons of raw sewage mixed with stormwater overflowed into the Missouri River and the Papillion Creek in an average year. Through the CSO! Program, the City will dramatically reduce the volume of overflows and meet regulatory requirements. It is funded by all ratepayers who use the City's regional wastewater collection and treatment system.
The Program Management Team's job is to save money for City ratepayers and do what is best for the community as we meet the objectives and requirements of the Clean Water Act.
The City is working to ensure that the CSO Program goals (Control Projects) outlined in the Long Term Control Plan are constructed and operational by October 2037, in accordance with the Consent Order between the City and the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.
Specific CSO Program goals include Regulatory Compliance, Economic Affordability and Community Acceptance.
The City of Omaha Public Works Department operates a regional wastewater collection and treatment system serving a population of over 700,000 residents and over 12,000 commercial and industrial customers throughout the metro area, including service to Bennington, Bellevue, LaVista, Gretna, Papillion, Carter Lake, Iowa, and other areas of Douglas and Sarpy County. Customers in these areas make up the ratepayer base that funds operations, maintenance, and ongoing improvements necessary to provide safe and effective collection and treatment of wastewater for Omaha and the surrounding area.
The combined sewer area in the City of Omaha is just one element of the overall regional wastewater collection system, along with the Missouri River Water Resource Recovery Facility, Papillion Creek Water Resource Recovery Facility, and the separate sanitary sewer collection system.
The CSO Program an unfunded federal mandate to reduce raw sewage overflows to the Missouri River, Papillion Creek and other local streams. The Program provides extensive system improvements with implementation costs of approximately $2 billion in escalated dollars, through its completion in 2037.
The CSO Program is funded by sewer use fees payed for by ratepayers we serve. Additionally, other funding resources have included several grants from the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NDNR).
The NDNR, through the Water Sustainability Fund Grant, has awarded a total of $6,892,611 to the CSO Program since 2016. This award is provided to the City on an annual basis and includes approximately 10 percent of the appropriated funds statewide. It is anticipated that this award will continue annually through Program completion. Funding provided by sewer use fees and any grants help offset and keep those rates low.
Financing for the Program has included low interest loans issued through the State Revolving Fund (SRF) Loan program from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE). Additional, project-specific financing has been made available from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) low-interest loan program.
The sewer use fee rate structure necessary to fund wastewater collection and treatment is reviewed periodically, at four or five-year intervals. The current rate ordinance, approved in 2018, established sewer rates for 2019 through 2023. A constant focus on cost controls, along with favorable financial conditions, has allowed the City to avoid a projected nine percent annual rate increase. The established, current annual rate increase is 5.25 percent.
It was recognized early in the Program that rising rates would be a hardship for some residents. The City took a proactive role to determine ratepayer assistance options for fixed- and low-income residents. The CSO Program utilizes the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the state’s energy assistance program, to provide sewer ratepayer assistance. This financial assistance offsets heating, cooling, and sewer costs and is administered by M.U.D. and OPPD.
Ratepayer assistance is provided to low-income households who qualify for LIHEAP and additionally through a 2020 federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act contribution. From January through June 2022, over $4,878,000 has been provided in assistance; for a total of $19,225,000 from inception.
For information about the sewer use fee assistance program call (402) 444-3908. To apply for Nebraska LIHEAP, which qualifies you for sewer use fee assistance, call (402) 595-1258
The Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) sets the overall schedule for the CSO Program, which began in 2009. It includes a variety of CSO control projects, ranging from sewer separation to high-rate treatment facilities, all implemented under the oversight of the City and Program Management Team.
Design and construction of the CSO solutions will take place in phases between now and October 2037. This is a 10 year extension beyond the existing Program end date to allow opportunities to:
The 2021 Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) Update was approved by the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) in August 2021. The Project Delivery Schedule for Active Projects (above) is consistent with the approved LTCP Update and reflects the 10-year extension (included in an Amendment to the City’s Consent Order with NDEE) for CSO Program completion. A new CSO permit has yet to be issued.
While the challenges regarding the CSO Program are significant, there are also benefits. With each project comes an opportunity to improve and enhance neighborhoods. Where streets and curbs are removed for construction, new streets, curbs, handicap ramps and driveway approaches will be built. Where trees are removed, new trees or other plants will replace them. Some enhancements, such as public art, decorative seating, rain gardens and other ideas generated by the public could be added, funded by neighborhoods through grants or other funding organizations.
The CSO Program coordinates with utilities (M.U.D., OPPD, Cox, CenturyLink) to minimize disruptions during construction. Coordinating project planning with M.U.D.'s Infrastructure Replacement Program for replacement of water and gas lines as part of CSO projects saves ratepayers money by performing all work in the road right-of-way at once.
Reducing pollutant discharge to the Missouri River and Papillion Creek and ultimately improving water quality is one of the key goals of the CSO Program.
To characterize the existing water quality in the Missouri River, the City initiated the Missouri River Water Quality Monitoring Program (WQ Program) with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Nebraska Water Science Center in July 2012. This three-year WQ Program is the start of a long-term partnership between the City and the USGS. The overall objective of the WQ Program is to understand the effects of Omaha’s combined sewer system discharges on water quality in the Missouri River. Various water quality parameters will be collected either monthly or continuously during the Program and include:
Select data have been collected monthly at four locations and continuously at three locations since July 2012 and will continue to be collected throughout the WQ Program. Gathered information will be used to support long-term planning for the City’s CSO Program, Stormwater Program, and water resource recovery facilities.
If you would like more information about a water project listed on this site, please contact us. We will get back to you as soon as possible.
Locations, timing and other details stated on this website are for general information only and are subject to change. If more detailed information is required, please contact us directly.