With the official start of the wet weather season on October 15, it’s time to revisit what San Franciscans can do to prepare and a few updates on what the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has been doing: the agency’s Storm Watch team tracks the weather and checks low-lying neighborhoods on a regular basis, and more frequently during storms. SFPUC Strike Teams are deployed in different zones of the City to clear away dirt and leaves off the top of catch basins, and Sewer Operations crews vacuum out debris using giant (vac-con) trucks like the one pictured. The SFPUC works with City agencies like San Francisco Public Works who help trim trees, clean streets, and clear storm drains to prevent clogging and ponding during heavy rains. And as part of comprehensive flood resilience and stormwater management efforts, the SFPUC is investing in capital improvement projects to help reduce the risk of flooding in the low-lying neighborhoods. But enough about what the SFPUC is doing, what can you do?
Floodwater Grant Program
While City crews prepare San Francisco for the rains, improving stormwater management and flood resilience across the City is a partnership between government agencies and residents like you. Residents and businesses in low-lying neighborhoods are urged to take proactive steps to protect their properties by elevating belongings and moving vehicles to higher ground. To help go above and beyond these simple measures, since last winter the SFPUC has also been updating our Floodwater Management Grant Assistance Program to make it easier for property owners to access this vital resource and help minimize the impacts of heavy rains on their properties.
Property owners experiencing sewage back-up inside their homes every time it rains are encouraged to take advantage of the Floodwater Grant to cover the cost of projects (up to $100K!) that could benefit their property such as: installing a backwater valve, flood barriers on the doorsteps or driveways, water-resistant seals, sump pumps, or other actions to help minimize the impacts of heavy rains.
Under new program modifications recently approved by the SFPUC Commission, owner-occupied, residential property owners who demonstrate financial hardship and eligible small businesses and non-profit organizations can now receive an up-front grant payment of up to $1,000 for contractor deposits to secure work, and reimbursement for the final installment grant payment based on submission only of an invoice (as opposed to proof of payment). In addition, for eligible small businesses and non-profit organizations with a maximum of 50 full-time employees, the grantee cost-share for projects has been reduced from 20 percent to 0 percent!
Volunteer to Adopt a Drain, or Rain Garden
When it comes to stormwater management and reducing the burden on San Francisco’s sewer system, every little bit helps. That’s why the SFPUC is continuing the successful Adopt-a-Drain and Rain Guardians programs, which allow San Franciscans to “adopt” one of the City’s 25,000 drains (or catch-basins) or so far 69 available rain gardens with the pledge that they will clean and maintain the assets to reduce the risk of flooding. The agency encourages those who live, work or play in San Francisco to take action by helping protect the sewer infrastructure in their communities and have fun with a creative name for their adopted storm drain too.
Build Green Infrastructure
For those looking to implement stormwater management techniques with additional benefits such as increased biodiversity and neighborhood beautification, the SFPUC launched an innovative new grant program in 2019 to fund green infrastructure projects on public and private properties throughout San Francisco. 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. This program encourages owners of large, impervious parcels to pursue green infrastructure solutions like incorporating pervious pavement or rain gardens on their property.
If you are experiencing issues such as localized flooding, sewage backup or clogged catch basins, please contact 311 at www.sf311.org, or by calling 3-1-1.