This Drain Adopter Rolled Up Her Sleeves Before The Big Storm

The San Francisco Bay Area braved heavy rain fall and winds this past weekend. Luckily, for “Down-a the Drain,” a storm drain located at the bottom of a steep San Francisco hill, Elizabeth Heidues takes pride in cleaning her adopted drain, part of the SFPUC’s Adopt a Drain Program.

Heidues put on a yellow vest and rolled up her sleeves just one week before the atmospheric river swept through San Francisco, leaving behind over 4 inches of rain in a two-day period.

“Down-a the Drain, also known as ‘Donna the Drain,’ was really dirty,” exclaimed Heidues. “There were cigarette butts, Kleenex, gravel, stones, leaves, trash and sand. The dry winds from the weeks prior blew stuff all over her.”

Heidues has been part of the Adopt a Drain Program for nearly five years. She has made cleaning and sweeping her drain part of her monthly routine and has even managed to make it into a fun outing of sorts.

“I took my little boom box with me and played The Doors CD ‘Strange Days’ to have a little 60s vibe. I also pulled patches of crabgrass and took cobwebs from inside her grate.”

The rain came earlier than expected this year, catching some by surprise. But in any case, Heidues says her drain will be ready for the next big storm.

“What I’ve seen year after year is my drain consistently gets debris and trash caught in it year-round. So, rain or shine, it is important to keep cleaning drains.”

While there isn’t any rain in the forecast any time soon, Heidues hopes drain adopters will take advantage of the dry weather to give their drains some “TLC.”

Elizabeth Heidues adopted a drain and named it “Donna the Drain”. She cleaned the drain before
the weekend storm.

The SFPUC’s Sewer Operations Crews have been gearing up for the season, cleaning over 4,000 drains yearly. With more than 25k storm drains in the City, the Adopt a Drain program is a partnership with the community to clean as many drains as possible.

When heavy storms hit heavily-paved San Francisco, all that water has few places to go, causing runoff that can overwhelm our sewer system. By 2050, through capital projects, grant programs and the City’s Stormwater Management Ordinance, the SFPUC has a goal to capture 1 billion gallons of stormwater using green infrastructure.

The SFPUC is working to make San Francisco’s surfaces, rooftops, landscapes, school grounds, traffic medians as porous as possible through green infrastructure projects, and grants for the public to do the same on their properties. By installing these green infrastructure elements, the city itself acts like a sponge that captures, cleans and slowly releases rainwater while enlivening parks and gardens.

Learn more about the Adopt a Drain Program and how you can name your drain.