Recently in Stormwater Category

Madroño Certified as Green Infrastructure Contractor

Bioretention planter on Cesar Chavez in San Francisco

San Francisco is a national leader in sustainable urban development, having passed citywide ordinances on mandatory green building, recycling, and environmental ethics. To bring this same ethos to the complex subject of urban water management, the City has incorporated a number of  “ Green Infrastructure” (GI) projects into its massive, multi-billion dollar Sewer System Improvement Program (SSIP). To ensure the success of the municipal GI projects, the City provides contractor training on design guidelines and best practices. Today, 40 firms have completed the training program, including Madroño Landscape Design Studio. But unlike many of the larger firms which are engaged in commercial and municipal projects, Madroño’s residential business sees the SSIP as a launching pad to engage private property owners more deeply in the larger vision of greening our city.

So what is Green Infrastructure? In essence, it is a landscaping strategy that diverts rain into planted areas and eventually back into the water table, rather than sending it into the sewer. This method replaces impermeable surfaces like asphalt and concrete with permeable pavers and infiltration basins that allow rain water to percolate into the earth. Less water in the sewer means lower treatment costs for the city, less chance of overwhelmed sewers, and an overall recharging of the water table for improved plant and soil health. The City has found that optimal GI design prevents nearly 90% of stormwater from entering the sewer system.

But Raphael Garcia, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) GI Project Manager, spoke of the challenges still facing this issue: “Municipal projects can only go so far, as 80% of the impervious surfaces in this city are on private property.” This eye-opening statistic raises the question: what programs are in place to reach this vast and largely unaddressed majority of the city landscape?

Urban Watershed Stewardship Grant Cycle Begins

Green InfrastructureFree money for green infrastructure!

Many small individual actions by so-called "watershed stewards" can add up into major benefits for San Francisco's watersheds and sewer infrastructure.  Building upon this premise, the San Francisco Community Challenge Grant (CCG) program has partnered with the SFPUC Urban Watershed Management program to announce the launch of the application cycle for this year's Urban Watershed Stewardship Grants (WSG). 

Grants of up to $100,000 will be funded to support "green infrastructure" projects including rainwater harvesting and re-use, the removal of impervious surfaces, and the installation of rain gardens, permeable paving, and bioretention planters.

Eligibility for grants is limited to community groups, nonprofit organizations, merchant associations, schools, and community benefit district organizations.  More information is available online.  This year's grant application deadline is March 24, 2017.  Throw your hat in the ring for a piece of the action, and do your part to make San Francisco a more sustainable city.

California Passes Rainwater Act

Cistern_san_francisco_rainwater23.jpgCalifornia Assembly Bill 1750 was signed by Governor Jerry Brown today to enact the Rainwater Capture Act of 2012, a significant new measure clarifying that the use of rainwater captured from rooftops does not require a water right permit from the State Water Resources Control Board.  


This much-needed liberalization of the law further permits holders of a C27 licence (landscape contractors) to prime contract for the construction of such systems when they are used exclusively for irrigation or as supply for a fountain, waterfall, pond, or other water feature.

Designed together with targeted overflow into bioswales and vernal detainment pools, rainwater management systems recharge local aquifers and liberate the gardener from the city garden hose. 

The new law also acknowledges change in precipitation patterns, with more changes to come:  

An increasing amount  of California's water is predicted to fall not as snow in the mountains, but as rain in other areas of the state. This will affect the local hydrologic cycle profoundly; much of that rainwater will no longer be held in existing reservoirs, which are located to capture snowmelt.

Snowmelt is also predicted to occur progresively early in the year, so reservoirs operated for flood control must release water early in the season to protect against later storms, thereby reducing the amount of early-season snowmelt that can be saved.

Expanding opportunities for rainwater capture to augment water supply will require efforts at all levels, from individual landowners to state and local agencies and watershed managers. 

Here at Madroño, we hope to serve ever more clients choosing to improve their landscapes so elementally.

Stormwater Infiltration Sidewalk Planters

sidewalk infiltration planters, longThese sidewalk trees fronting a big-box store in El Cerrito may appear ordinary, but they warrant a closer look.

sidewalk infiltration planters, medium Each concrete planter box is outfitted with multiple intake gutters to capture stormwater.

sidewalk infiltration planters, closeRunoff from the street flows down these narrow gutters and into the planters.

Good native plants for stormwater infiltration planters Hardy California native plants like Mimulus (monkeyflower), Calamagrostis (reedgrass), Juncus (wild rush) and Danthonia (oatgrass) love to be saturated with water in winter, then go bone dry in summer .