Green Infrastructure: Helping Manage Our Stormwater for the Future

The heavy rains and winds San Francisco experienced in late January marked the first significant rainfall of the year. What happens to that rain once it falls is very important, especially for the SFPUC. On average, over 10 billion gallons of rain falls in San Francisco each year. That rain falling on our roofs, sidewalks and streets sends those billions of gallons of stormwater into the City’s combined sewer system through storm drains, where it is combined with wastewater from our toilets, bathtub drains, and sinks into one system that collects and treats it all together. During storms like the one recently experienced in late January, our sewer system works extra hard collecting and treating all that stormwater.

Learn how the SFPUC is working to create sustainable green infrastructure across the city that reduces the amount of stormwater going to the sewer system, and what you can do to help.

The SFPUC has implemented eight Early Implementation Projects (EIPs), to pilot green infrastructure technology throughout the city. Green infrastructure uses a combination of highly engineered systems and natural processes like plants and soils – such as rain gardens, green roofs, and rainwater harvesting systems – to slow down, capture, and treat stormwater. Instead of going to our sewer system, that rain soaks into the earth or is captured for reuse. Combined, these projects are keeping over 14 million gallons of stormwater from flowing into our sewer system each year. Some of these green infrastructure projects include the newly constructed Baker Beach Green Street.

Baker Beach Green Street Project along El Camino Del Mar.
Sunset Boulevard Greenway Project at Sunset and Vicente.

Scheduled to complete this year, this project is anticipated to divert 4 million gallons of stormwater each year. When completed, the project will have constructed 30 rain gardens covering over 16,000 square feet of land, including an interactive learning lab.

A short clip on the Sunset Boulevard Greenway project from the SFPUC’s Virtual Exploration series in 2020.

The SFPUC’s Stormwater Management Ordinance (SMO) requires new and redevelopment projects in the city to manage and maintain stormwater onsite using green infrastructure. Since the launch of the Ordinance more than 10 years ago, 300+ projects built around the city have incorporated into their design, and more pop up every day.

The SFPUC partners with the City’s Community Challenge Grant Program to deliver the Urban Watershed Stewardship Grant Program. The program funds community-based projects in the planning, design, and construction of green infrastructure and has resulted in thirty-eight public improvement projects, transforming sidewalks into rain gardens and adding nature play areas and rainwater harvesting systems to public schools. To receive updates on the grant program join the Community Challenge Grants mailing list at

The Green Infrastructure Grant Program funds stormwater management projects for public and private properties that can manage stormwater runoff from at least 0.5 acres of their property. The maximum grant amount for the Green Infrastructure Grant Program is $2 million and can support the transformation of properties through innovative stormwater projects. Since the launch of the program in 2019, the grant has funded nine projects on public and private schools, religious institutions and city lands that together will manage over 5.5 million gallons of stormwater each year. To find out more and to apply, visit

Rain barrel installation at Alice Fong Yu, funded by the Urban Watershed Stewardship Grant Program.

Help San Francisco’s Sewer System and Green Infrastructure

Become a Rain Guardian, Adopt a Drain, and help keep rain gardens and storm drains free of trash and debris. As a Rain Guardian or Drain Adopter you can help our Combined Sewer System and Green Stormwater Infrastructure do its job to protect our city and surrounding waterways.

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