July 27, 2009

All We Need is a Drawbridge

Have you seen San Francisco’s moat?

You probably haven’t (because it’s underground) – and it’s not filled with alligators; it’s filled with sewage and stormwater runoff from City streets. But it’s a fabulous moat, nonetheless, comprising networks of large boxes that run beneath the Embarcdero and the Great Highway, literally encircling much of the City.

Keeping these boxes from “overfilling” during large storm events is key to the health of San Francisco’s waterways and combined sewer system (so named because the system treats a combination of both sewage and stormwater runoff). But we can’t stop the rain – even if we wanted to (which we don’t).

So what can we do?

We can capture rainwater from our roofs in rain barrels and cisterns, thereby employing an “old world” technology to maintain our City’s new-fangled moat. We can also continue to invest in Low Impact Design (or LID) technologies, which are cutting-edge building methods that create places for stormwater to infiltrate the ground, replenishing groundwater and streams.

In coming weeks we’ll post more information on these hi-falutin’ LID technologies (as well as information on soon-to-be-announced discounted rain barrels and hands-on rain barrel installation workshops – stay tuned!) For now, please bask in your special knowledge of San Francisco’s underground moat, and all the responsibilities and possibilities that lie therein…

For more information on the SFPUC’s rainwater harvesting and LID programs, please visit: http://stormwater.sfwater.org/.

Building a rain barrel system at San Francisco's Cesar Chavez Elementary School

An eight-unit rain barrel system at the City's Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant

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