A Short Guide of Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Rain Guardian

Saving the world does not always require super powers, fighting abilities, or a cape. Sometimes it just requires residents to use safety equipment to keep their adopted rain gardens clean and safe.

The SFPUC’s Rain Guardians Program enables San Francisco residents or businesses to become “guardians” of the City’s new rain gardens by keeping them free of trash and debris.

Cesar Chavez Rain Garden: Community volunteer, Karen Rhodes, cleaning a rain garden on Cesar Chavez Street.

Rain gardens are a green infrastructure feature that take advantage of the natural processes of soils and plants in order to slow down and clean stormwater and keep it from overwhelming the San Francisco’s sewer system. Rain gardens are typically depressed below the street level so that stormwater can easily flow in and be treated by the soils and plants; this also means they have a tendency to collect debris and trash year-round. Rain Guardians will regularly remove trash from their rain garden and report any other issues.

Rain Guardians Program: do’s and don’ts of cleaning a rain garden. SFPUC staff demonstrate the correct way to clean a rain garden.

The SFPUC advises to follow these guidelines:

  • DO pick up trash and debris from the sidewalk. If necessary, carefully clean from within the rain garden – avoid trampling plants!
  • DO pick up trash before and after rain storms.
  • DO put leaves and other natural material in the green compost bin and trash in the black garbage bin, if possible.
  • DO wear reflective clothing so vehicles can see you.
  • DO always wear gloves, use a trash picker as much as possible, and be careful of sharp objects.
Rain Guardians Program: do’s and don’ts of cleaning a rain garden. SFPUC staff demonstrate improper cleanup practices.

The SFPUC highly urges residents not to do these things:

  • DON’T pick up trash from the roadway.
  • DON’T weed the rain gardens – many of the drought-tolerant native plants may look like weeds.
  • DON’T plant any extra plants in the rain gardens – plants are specially chosen to survive in the rain gardens and treat stormwater.
  • DON’T pick up medical waste or needles, construction debris, toxic materials, or large objects. Please report it to the City’s Customer Service Center, SF311.org on the web, SF311 app, or dial 3-1-1.

San Francisco residents can become a rain guardian by signing up online to adopt a rain garden and keep their neighborhood beautiful and safe.