Flood Resilience Top of Mind as SFPUC Prepares for Another Wet Weather Season

As San Francisco enters another wet weather season, there are more resources available than ever for residents and businesses to plan for major storms. The SFPUC and its partners will continue to advance a comprehensive approach to managing stormwater, providing customers with information and resources, and advancing the City’s integrated flood resilience actions across San Francisco.

Managing stormwater is an important priority for the SFPUC, both to increase flood resilience and green our neighborhoods. Earlier this year, the SFPUC Commission and the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance designating new flood maps for San Francisco, providing awareness and timely information on at-risk areas for existing and prospective property owners.

The SFPUC identified more than 4,000 properties in San Francisco where significant flooding from storm runoff is highly likely to occur during a 100-year storm. Property owners in the designated flood map zones will be required to disclose that information to potential buyers or tenants.

SFPUC sewer operations crew cleaning sewer drains on Sunset Blvd. Curb drains . Vactor truck
SFPUC crews using the vac-con truck to maintain the sewer.

The SFPUC also launched an innovative new grant program to fund green infrastructure projects on public and private properties throughout San Francisco. Initial funding includes $6.4 million for the first cycle. The goal is to encourage owners of large, impervious parcels to apply for grants to fund green infrastructure improvements to their property that will reduce stormwater runoff and improve the City’s collection system performance during wet weather. 

To date, two grants totaling more than $900,000 have been awarded from the program. The grants will benefit the Lafayette Elementary School and the Bessie Carmichael Middle School, and will fund efforts to create interactive rain gardens, which will help to recharge groundwater aquifers.

The SFPUC also offers a Floodwater Grant Program, which reimburses eligible property owners up to $100,000 for flood protection upgrades to their home or business, and renters and property owners can also purchase low-cost flood insurance

Along with providing resources for residents, the SFPUC and its City partners are making investments now to ensure the City is prepared for the changing weather patterns brought on by climate change.

San Francisco residents learn about cleaning debris at storm drains.
San Francisco residents learn about cleaning debris at storm drains.

The agency has identified neighborhoods with the greatest flood risk and prioritized projects in those areas, including a proposed $700 million worth of upgrades to the stormwater conveyance capacity of the system. These capital improvements will be prioritized along with other investments in the City’s combined sewer system, including addressing seismic reliability and aging infrastructure.

Throughout the year, the SFPUC works with San Francisco Public Works to clean pipes and clear storm drains, before and after major weather events.

When heavy rains are expected, the SFPUC deploys crews to deep-clean catch basins using high-powered vacuum trucks, assigns employees to proactively monitor low-lying areas of the City that are prone to flooding, even in the middle of the night and on weekends. In addition, on-call teams are assembled to clear leaves and debris from the top of the catch basin grates to help stormwater drain more effectively during and after a storm event.

The SFPUC will continue the successful implementation of its Adopt-a-Drain program and Rain Guardians program, which allow San Franciscans to “adopt” one of the City’s 25,000 drains (or catch-basins) or rain gardens with the pledge that they will clean and maintain the assets to reduce the risk of flooding.

Last year, the agency unveiled a new “Drains in Need” component of the program, which identified 2,000 drains most in need of maintenance and cleaning. The collaborative program is showing real results. According to SFPUC data, work orders for street flooding issues are down 36 percent below anticipated levels, illustrating the effectiveness of the resident initiative.

Rain Guardian training video for San Francisco residents.