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.  


What we do

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 in 2011 to promote homeowner stewardship of water quality within the Lake Whatcom watershed. During the pilot period from 2011-2015, over 150 homeowners received financial and technical support to install water quality projects that treat over 20 acres of watershed property.

In 2017, a revised and coordinated program was launched in basins 1 and 2 of the Lake Whatcom watershed. New features included 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.

In 2021, HIP expanded its program area once again to include the entire Lake Whatcom watershed. Building on our success and lessons learned, HIP continues to evolve to help homeowners improve water quality in Lake Whatcom.



Since 2011, more than 200 homeowners have installed 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 manage about 28 pounds of phosphorus per year. This represents more than 31 acres of private property that no longer impacts water quality. HIP projects continue to help improve water quality in Lake Whatcom as the program expands and participation in the program increases over time.