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Rain Guardians is a San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) volunteer program that enables San Francisco residents to “adopt” a rain garden in their neighborhood and guard it from trash and debris.

The SFPUC is building rain gardens in each of San Francisco's eight urban watersheds to help manage stormwater. To learn more about our City's watersheds and these projects visit www.sfwater.org/sfwatersheds




Why Are Rain Gardens Important?

Rain gardens are a green infrastructure feature that take advantage of the natural processes of soils and plants in order to slow down and clean stormwater and keep it from overwhelming the City's sewer system. They also provide multiple co-benefits such as habitat improvements, bicycle and pedestrian safety and neighborhood beautification. Rain gardens are part of the City’s initiative to manage 1 billion gallons of stormwater through green infrastructure by 2050.

Why Is There A Trash And Debris In Rain Gardens?

Rain gardens are typically depressed below the street level so that stormwater can easily flow in and be treated by the soils and plants instead of flowing into our sewers. This also means they have a tendency to collect debris and trash year-round.

What Are The Responsibilities Of A Rain Guardians?

The program’s goal is to engage residents and businesses to take an active role in caring for and improving the neighborhood where they live and work. A Rain Guardians is responsible for removing trash and debris and reporting issues, such as significant damage or hazardous materials to 311. The City’s maintenance crews are responsible for other activities, such as weeding and replacing damaged plants/soils. The plants in soils in a rain garden are specially designed and chosen to manage stormwater – PLEASE DO NOT WEED OR PLANT YOUR OWN PLANTS IN THE RAIN GARDENS. Check out our Rain Guardians Guide for more information.

What Do I Need To Clean My Garden?

We recommend that Rain Guardians use the following supplies to clean their gardens safely:

  • Gloves
  • Bright and/or reflective clothing
  • Trash picker
  • Appropriate receptacle for trash (plastic bag or compost bag)

How Do I Get Supplies?

The SFPUC will provide a rain guardians safety vest, gloves and trash picker for each rain garden adopter (one per guardian). Please visit the Community Page to see a list of upcoming events where you can pick up your tools.

What Do I Do With The Trash I've Collected?

It is the responsibility of the Rain Guardian to find a proper receptacle to throw away trash and debris.

What Do I Do If I Find Dog Poop Or Other Objects/materials I Don't Want To Pick Up, But Aren't A 311 Hazard?

If there is something you don’t want to pickup that doesn’t require immediate disposal, leave it, work around it and wait for our maintenance crews to handle on one of their regular visits. 

How Often Do I Need To Clean A Rain Garden?

Our maintenance team cleans the gardens on a quarterly basis. We recommend you clean your garden at least twice between their visits, but the frequency of your cleaning routine depends on the accumulation of trash and your own aesthetics. Once you sign up, you’ll receive periodic email notifications prior to large storms to clean your rain gardens.

How Do I Adopt A Rain Garden?

It’s easy! Just select a rain garden on the home page map and fill out the registration information.

Can I Un-adopt A Rain Garden?

We understand life happens and commitments change. If at anytime you wish to un-adopt a rain garden, you can do so through your account's Dashboard and make it available for another neighbor to adopt.

Shouldn’t The City Clean The Rain Gardens?

The City is responsible for maintaining the stormwater management functionality of the rain gardens. The SFPUC will be making quarterly maintenance visits to the rain gardens to ensure functionality. This frequency strikes a balance between stormwater management performance and maintaining ratepayer affordability. In the next five years there will be more than 350 rain gardens the SFPUC will operate and maintain. In addition to rain gardens, the SFPUC operates and maintains 25,000+ storm drains and 1,000 miles of combined sewer pipes, cleaning between 5,000-9,000 catch basins each year.

Can I Help Protect Rain Gardens In My Neighborhood If I Haven’t Adopted A Rain Garden?

Yes! You do not need to “adopt a rain garden” to become a rain guardian. Please report sewer emergencies or service problems such as clogged catch basins, standing water that lasts more than 48 hours, street flooding, sewer backups, or wastewater odors to the City’s Customer Service Center, 311 on the web/smart phone (or dial 3-1-1). You can always protect your local green street by following the best practices outlined in the Green Street brochure. (English, Chinese, Spanish).

How Many Rain Gardens Can I Adopt?

There is no limit to the number of gardens you can adopt, but we encourage you to leave some gardens for your neighbors to adopt and be part of the Rain Guardians team!

How To Name Your Rain Garden

We are so excited about all of the wonderful work you are doing to keep your rain gardens clean and neighborhoods beautiful. We would like to highlight you in our media posts and on the Rain Guardians Community Page. If there are photos of you caring for your rain gardens and you would like to share, please email them to us at Rainguardians@sfwater.org. If you post to social media be sure to tag us with @sfwater and #sfrainguardians.

We noticed that a number of adopted rain gardens have not been named and wanted to provide clarity

on the process of naming your rain garden. To name your adopted rain garden please follow the steps


1. Visit https://www.rainguardians.org/ and login to your account.
2. Once you are logged in select Dashboard from the menu bar at the top of the page

3. Select My Garden from the tool bar to the left

4. Click Name Your Garden Now