The Homeowner Incentive Program (HIP) is a joint program developed and implemented by City of Bellingham and Whatcom County staff, with assistance from the Whatcom Conservation District. The program is a water quality restoration strategy of the Lake Whatcom Management Program (LWMP). The LWMP works to protect the lake through stormwater retrofits and treatment systems, property acquisition, education and outreach, and regulation and enforcement.  The HIP, which utilizes funding and support from the LWMP and expertise of the Whatcom Conservation District, plays an integral part in working with residents that want to voluntarily change the way water runs through and off of their properties.



HIP staff assist homeowners in understanding the issues that impact the lake and how they can implement solutions on their property or in their neighborhood. Once a homeowner has decided to proceed with a HIP project, the program provides the support needed to turn ideas on paper into real-world outcomes that benefit the homeowner and water quality. When the project is complete, the HIP provides financial assistance to cover most – or sometimes all – of the cost of the improvements. The HIP acts as a bridge between residents who want to protect water quality and the local resources for both technical and financial assistance to support their actions.



The HIP began as a grant-funded pilot program launched in 2011 to promote homeowner stewardship of water quality within the Lake Whatcom watershed. The pilot phase, funded in part by the Department of Ecology and running through 2015, provided technical assistance and financial incentives to almost 200 landowners. Of the total project cost, 80% was spent directly on reimbursements to homeowners with more than 150 local private companies providing labor, goods, or services to participants.

After more than a year of research, engaging a wide audience including past HIP participants, current residents, and local professional experts and consultants, the newest version of the HIP launched in 2017. New features include an expanded program area, a professional training and certification program, a program-specific website, and many tools intended to streamline the HIP process and take the headache out of planning, permitting, and hiring professionals.




Through 2016, HIP participants have installed more than 450 phosphorus-reducing Best Management Practices (BMPs) on private properties in the Lake Whatcom watershed. At a cost a small fraction of that of large, end-of-pipe, publicly-built treatment systems, HIP-related improvements now manage more than 20 pounds of phosphorus per year. This represents more than 30 acres of private property that no longer impacts water quality. The 2017 re-launch of the HIP will expand the program’s reach to new areas, with new BMPs and new solutions to make the homeowner’s participation easier than ever. The impact of HIP participants on lake water quality will only grow greater as collective action by citizen stewards grows with the program.