San Francisco, CA – The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s innovative Stormwater Management Ordinance, a groundbreaking initiative to more efficiently capture and store the City’s rainwater through green infrastructure projects, turned10 years old this May. In the decade of its existence, the undertaking has helped manage some 180 million gallons of rainwater each year, steering 60 million gallons of water away from the City’s sewer system in the process.
“In the decade since the Stormwater Management Ordinance has passed, our City has been transformed for the better,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “In place of impermeable pavements, we are seeing rain gardens, greenery and other materials that absorb our rain water instead of pushing it into our sewer system. We can look back on our first 10 years as a huge success---but it’s only the start of a great future.”
Developed in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act and enacted into law by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom on May 22, 2010, the Stormwater Management Ordinance (SMO) required that all new developments capture stormwater onsite using green infrastructure designs, such as rain gardens, rainwater harvesting systems and green roofs.
In the 10 years since the inception of the ordinance, the SFPUC has helped oversee the completion of 300 green infrastructure projects on public and private properties. Overall, some 180 million gallons of rainwater—enough to fill 12,000 swimming pools—are currently being managed under the ordinance each year. The SFPUC has set a goal of capturing 300 million gallons of year through green infrastructure projects, a mark it is set to meet by approximately 2032.
Those projects divert rainwater from the City’s combined sewer system, easing the burden on a network that features 100-year-old infrastructure in some segments. In addition, the green infrastructure projects help beautify neighborhoods and reduce the chance of contaminants from flowing into the City’s sewer system.
“In the past decade private and public entities alike have embraced the innovative concept of rain gardens and permeable pavements instead of blacktop lots that simply funnel stormwater into our sewer systems,” said Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer. “We know these projects work and will benefit our children and schools in particular for the long haul —which is why I am a proud sponsor of legislation to extend the SFPUC’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program. Through this initiative, we are making our City a more livable, vibrant and sustainable place to live.”
In typical urban environments with roofs, streets and parking lots, rainwater does not soak into the ground as it should, and it instead it is diverted through gutters and stormwater systems into nearby water bodies, often carrying trash, bacteria and other harmful materials. Green infrastructure systems such as rain gardens, permeable pavement and rainwater harvesting systems help reduce runoff and flows into the sewer system.
Projects subject to the SMO collect stormwater runoff from a total of 347 acres of impervious surfaces – an area equal to seven Bay Bridges and seven Golden Gate Bridges combined. Looking ahead, the SMO will help manage stormwater runoff from 1,700 acres of impervious surfaces, once the City’s major redevelopment areas have completed construction.
“The SFPUC is providing national leadership with their cutting-edge implementation of green infrastructure,” said Warner Chabot, Executive Director of the San Francisco Estuary Institute. “Not only are they diverting millions of gallons of rainwater from the sewer system. San Francisco's vision is also demonstrating how to improve the quality of urban life.”
Green infrastructure projects are a crucial element of the SFPUC’s Sewer System Improvement Program, a 20-year citywide investment to upgrade and improve the City’s sewer system. SFPUC’s green infrastructure projects, along with innovative private projects developed through the Stormwater Management Ordinance, could potentially result in the capture of 1 billion gallons of stormwater using green infrastructure by 2050.
Last year, the SFPUC announced the launch of its Green Infrastructure Grant Program, a funding initiative available for both public and private properties in San Francisco for projects that manage stormwater runoff from a minimum impervious area of 0.5 acres. Residents can visit sfwater.org/gigrants to learn more about the program and download the grant application.
About the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is a department of the City and County of San Francisco. It delivers drinking water to 2.7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area, collects and treats wastewater for the City and County of San Francisco, and generates clean power for municipal buildings, residents, and businesses. Our mission is to provide our customers with high quality, efficient and reliable water, power, and sewer services in a manner that values environmental and community interests and sustains the resources entrusted to our care. Learn more at www.sfwater.org.