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Rainwater Harvesting

Green rain barrel

Rainwater harvesting is the practice of collecting and using rainwater from hard surfaces such as roofs for landscape irrigation or toilet flushing. A rainwater harvesting system can be as simple as using a small home-made rain barrel or installing a large cistern or underground storage tank. Capturing rainwater at your home or business reduces drinking water otherwise needed for irrigation and helps reduce runoff form entering our combined sewer system during storm events. Other benefits of rainwater harvesting include:
  • Keeping relatively clean water out of San Francisco’s combined sewer system, making it available for other uses
  • Reducing the energy and chemicals needed to treat stormwater 
  • Helping to reduce flooding and sewer overflows by capturing and using water onsite 


With California entering another year of drought, we are pleased to announce that our Rainwater Harvesting Program has expanded! We’ve partnered with the Urban Farmer Store to offer residents and businesses generous discounts on rain barrels and now larger capacity cisterns. Participants in the program will receive either:
  • A $100 discount off the purchase of a pre-approved rain barrel, ranging from 45 to 60 gallons (limit 2 per customer). Each rain barrel includes a hose bib, overflow hose, and a connecting valve to join multiple barrels. Discounted downspout diverter kits are also available.
  • A $350 discount off the purchase of a cistern, ranging from 130 to 860 gallons (limit 1 per customer).

To apply for the program, review either the Rain Barrel or Cistern fact sheet and then complete our online application which includes submitting a photo of your downspout. 

For a print-friendly version of the application, please click here

Once your application is approved, you can pick up your rain barrel(s) or cistern at the Urban Farmer Store, located at 2833 Vicente Street. For questions about the status of your application, please contact the Urban Farmer Store at or (415) 661-2204.


For rainwater harvesting projects that need to disconnect the downspout from the sewer system, a permit is required from the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI). We offer a rebate up to $225 to help cover the cost of obtaining a permit. Not sure if you need a permit? Please review our Rain Barrel or Cistern fact sheet for requirements.

For questions about our Rainwater Harvesting Programs, email us at



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Last updated: 3/24/2016 3:32:58 PM