How You Can Restore the Earth: Prevent Stormwater Pollution in Your Neighborhood

Close your eyes and imagine you are looking at one of your favorite places in San Francisco: Lombard Street, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, or the sunny Mission District. Now picture everything on the streets and sidewalks – chemicals seeping out from cars, candy wrappers, discarded face masks, tree leaves, and anything that’s flowed from the gutters and rooftops – all getting washed into the same place.

Storm drains, which are those metal grills that line San Francisco’s sidewalks, serve as an entryway to the sewer system, taking everything to treatment plants, and sometimes leading right to the bay or ocean.

San Francisco Cityscape from the view of Yerba Buena Island.
Pacific Ocean.

San Francisco’s combined sewer system treats both what is flushed down the toilet and stormwater, but in some parts of the City the stormwater flows directly to the Bay or ocean without treatment. This is why it is so important to prevent harmful pollutants from flowing into the storm drains.

This April, millions of voices will share how collectively and individually, we can make a difference in preserving, restoring and protecting earth for future generations. Along with global activists, international leaders and influencers, the SFPUC is doing its part and invites individuals to join this work. Here’s a quick guide on how to prevent stormwater pollutants:

  • Stormwater and Pollution Prevention: learn what you can do to help prevent pollution.
  • Use less-toxic gardening products in your garden.
  • Properly dispose of pesticides that remove lice, ticks, fleas, ants, and any other outdoor pest.
  • Dispose of household chemicals at a recycling center or household hazardous waste facility.
  • Always pick up your pet’s waste and throw the bagged waste in the trash.
  • Never litter, dispose of trash properly.
  • Remove some of the concrete in your front “yard” and plant a tree or make a rain garden.
  • Ride a bike or take public transportation instead of driving alone to work can reduce the amount of harmful car exhaust pollutants from the street.
  • Attend a Coastal Clean-Up Day event.
  • Bring your car to a professional car washing facility since they capture all of the soapy runoff that may otherwise pollute local waters.
  • When you wash your car at home, motor oil and other pollutants can get washed down the street and enter the City’s storm drains, which lead to the San Francisco Bay or Pacific Ocean. Review the ‘Guide to Washing a Car in SF’ for useful tips and hints for an environmentally friendly way to wash your car at home.
  • Sign up on Adopt a Drain SF and pledge to keep a catch basin or storm drain near you free of leaves, debris and pollution. Only rain down the drain