How the SFPUC’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program Celebrates its First Birthday

Each year, over 10 billion gallons of rain falls on San Francisco. All of that rain sends billions of gallons of stormwater flowing into the City’s combined sewer system where stormwater is combined with wastewater from our toilets, bathtub drains, and sinks into one system that collects and treats it all together. San Francisco’s sewer system is designed to collect a large volume of stormwater, but sometimes it just can’t handle all that water. Enter green infrastructure: 

Green infrastructure is a stormwater management tool that takes advantage of the natural processes of soils and plants to slow down and clean stormwater, keeping it from overwhelming the City’s sewer system. 

In February 2019, the SFPUC launched its first large-scale green infrastructure grant program. The grant program provides funding for property owners in San Francisco to implement green stormwater infrastructure projects, which could be anything from permeable pavement to rain gardens. 

Photo of a dry creek at a San Francisco school.
Green infrastructure at a San Francisco school.

“The goal of the grant program is to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff entering San Francisco’s combined sewer system while providing additional co-benefits to the community such as neighborhood beautification, urban greening, and educational opportunities on stormwater management and how it works,” said Sarah Bloom, SFPUC’s Green Infrastructure Program Administrator. 

The SFPUC is now celebrating the one-year anniversary of the grant program. Over the past year the grant program team has been hard at work conducting site visits and working directly with property owners.

“Following a site visit we provide our assessments to help property owners envision how green infrastructure could transform their site and benefit their property,” said Bloom.

The grant program has garnered strong interest from local schools (both public and private), parks, and religious institutions that see an opportunity to make their property more sustainable, while providing additional greening and educational opportunities for the people that use them. The following three projects have been awarded grants so far, totaling $2 million in grant awards.

Lafayette Elementary School is building a series of rain gardens on campus to manage 350,000 gallons of stormwater each year.  Construction is expected to be complete in September 2020.
Bessie Carmichael Middle School is building a series of rain gardens and above ground planters on campus to manage 275,000 gallons of stormwater per year.  Construction is expected to be complete in September 2020.
St. Thomas More Catholic School is transforming their schoolyard with a combination of rain gardens, permeable pavement, infiltration trenches and a rainwater harvesting system to manage over 780,000 gallons of stormwater each year. 

These three projects alone are projected to manage over 1.4 million gallons of stormwater per year. This brings the SFPUC one step closer to achieving its goal of managing one billion gallons of stormwater using green infrastructure by 2050.

With three additional projects conditionally awarded, including a city park and two schools, and $4.4 million in the current budget, this program has no plans of slowing down any time soon. The grant team is working diligently on program optimization and expects to see more innovative green stormwater infrastructure projects in the years to come.

Key highlights about the green infrastructure grant program.